Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Who Needs Fidget and Spinner Toys?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 8:45 AM

You may have seen kids and teens playing with fidget toys and spinners, but what are they? Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, fidget toys are silent toys with multiple textures, buttons or wheels. Spinners have a disk center with two or three wings that spin in between fingers. The initial idea for these gadgets was to help some students stay focused, calm and to get their nerves under control – but now schools are starting ban these new “fad” toys, claiming they are a distractions.


Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry at NorthShore, discusses who needs these and who does not.

Who needs them? Those who are stressed, restless or have medical conditions such as ADHD, OCD or anxiety can find a creative outlet in these gadgets. Some people click a pen repeatedly, tap their feet or twirl a pen around. With the fidget toys, it provides a quiet alternative to these activities that can be done under the desk.

Who does not need them? The average child or teen who does not have focus or restlessness issues. When there is no benefit outside of entertainment, a fidget toy becomes a distraction to classrooms. 

Dr. Shain offers some alternatives, which can be useful for children in either of the categories above. Alternatives to fidget toys and spinners:

  • Small amounts of play dough
  • Fleece scarves
  • Wearable fidget gadgets such as rings or bracelets
  • Pencil topper fidgets
  • Stress balls
  • Rubber string balls

If you find that you or your child still has distraction or restless issues throughout the day, consult with your child’s primary care physician for additional resources.