Should Fidget Toys Be Allowed in the Classroom?

Fidget toys like spinners, cubes, and sensory gadgets have exploded in popularity in recent years. While often seen as must-have toys and stress relievers for kids and adults alike, the use of fidget toys in school classrooms has sparked debate. Some teachers ban fidget toys as distractions, while others embrace them as tools to improve focus and behavior in students. There are good arguments on both sides of the issue. Here’s an in-depth look at the pros and cons of allowing fidget toys in academic settings.

Reasons to Allow Fidget Toys

  • Improve focus – For students with conditions like ADHD, anxiety, autism, or sensory processing disorders, research shows fidget toys can improve attention, concentration and sitting still by giving their restless hands an outlet. Fidget toys provide sensory input that can calm fidgety behaviors and allow better focus on the teacher.

-Release energy – Spinning, clicking, stretching or manipulating a fidget toy lets kids get out extra energy and wiggling in a contained, subtle way. This prevents disruptive movements that disturb the whole class. Releasing pent-up energy into a fidget promotes calm.

  • Enhances retention – Physical activity, even something slight like toying with a fidget, can increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This “body-brain connection” helps the mind stay engaged, leading to improved memory and learning. Allowing fidgets may support better academic retention.
  • Teaches self-regulation – Fidget toys give students an object lesson in self-control and concentration. Kids learn to limit fidgeting to just the toy, not sounds or big movements. Responsible fidget toy use helps kids self-regulate behavior and develop focus.

Reasons Not to Allow Fidget Toys

  • Distraction risk – For kids who don’t need them, fidget toys can easily become classroom distractions. They may play and talk about fidgets instead of paying attention to instruction. Even students using them for focus can become overly absorbed in fidgeting.
  • Noise problems – While designed to be subtle, certain fidget toys like clickers and spinners do make audible noises. In a quiet classroom, these sounds may divert focus or irritate classmates when students need silence and concentration.
  • Toy or tool confusion – With the popularity of fidget toys on the market, students may insist they “need” certain fidgets as entertainment rather than educational aids. This blurs the line between toy and learning tool in the classroom space.
  • Classroom management difficulties – Allowing fidget toys sets precedents that can be problematic. It can inspire upset when one student’s spinner is confiscated for misuse while another’s is still allowed. Loopholes can start arguments and undermine discipline.

There are good cases to be made both for allowing and prohibiting fidget toys in academic settings. Teachers interested in incorporating fidgets should set clear classroom policies on their use. With explicit expectations, consistent enforcement, and regular review of effectiveness, fidget toys may have a place in supporting student regulation and achievement. But schools and instructors comfortable banning distracting toys likely have sound reasons to continue limiting classroom fidgeting to more discreet options like stress balls, wiggle seats, or handheld manipulatives.