Do Fidget Toys Increase Focus?

Many people claim Fidget toys help increase focus and relieve stress, but is there any scientific evidence to back up these claims? Let’s take a look at what research says about whether fidget toys can actually improve concentration and reduce anxiety.

What Are Fidget Toys?

Fidget toys are small, handheld devices that people can play with in their hands. Some common examples include fidget spinners, fidget cubes, tangle toys, and stress balls. The main goal of these toys is to give the hands something to do while the brain focuses on another task. Playing with a fidget toy is meant to channel nervous energy and restlessness into harmless physical movement.

The Theory Behind Fidget Toys

The rationale behind fidget toys draws on the stimulation theory of attention. This theory states that people focus better when their brains are exposed to more sensory stimulation. Fidget toys provide that extra sensory input. Having something tactile to play with can occupy regions of the brain that would otherwise distract from the main task. The hands stay busy with the toy, allowing the brain to concentrate on listening, reading, studying, or working.

Scientific Research on Fidget Toys and Focus

Several scientific studies have looked into whether fidget toys really improve focus and concentration as claimed. The evidence so far has been mixed.

A 2018 study published in the journal Child Neuropsychology tested the effect of fidget spinners on attention and learning in a group of adolescent students. The researchers found that using a fidget spinner did not improve focus or learning outcomes for students. However, the students themselves believed the spinners helped them concentrate better.

A small 2020 study by researchers at the University of California, Davis tried using fidget toys in children with ADHD. They found no significant improvements in inattention or hyperactivity symptoms when kids used fidget toys during cognitive tasks.

However, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found some benefits of fidget toys for children with ADHD. When children with ADHD used a fidget toy while completing a self-ordered pointing task, they were more focused and made fewer errors than without the toy.

Researchers theorize that fidget toys may provide greater benefits for individuals who are naturally more fidgety, restless, or distractible. They may help channel excess nervous energy into silent, subtle motions. But for people without attention difficulties, fidget toys may be more distracting than helpful.

More research is still needed to draw definitive conclusions on the cognitive impacts of fidget toys. But based on evidence so far, it seems they are unlikely to harm focus or concentration when used moderately. Fidget toys may even help some people channel restless energy and improve their ability to sit still and pay attention. As with many things, moderation and self-awareness are key in determining whether fidget toys have a positive or negative impact.