The sale of fidget toys has reached all-time highs; this upward trend favoring the brain-stimulating item has widespread implications for the future of education. From one perspective, these objects may be malignant for adolescents, distractions rather than therapeutic tools. Fidget toys can be similar to video game addiction—abuse of the means which can improve mental intensity and focus only deteriorates concentration. For example, the 3-D game Minecraft provides enriching stimuli and deep exploration of constantly changing environments that may improve memory. However, from personal experience, children who spend excessive hours playing Minecraft suffer academically—not to mention socially. The benefits of a promising, new technology are mitigated by the lack of self-control that children potentially have, perhaps due to their continually developing brain that has not reached full capacity yet.
For individuals struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, fidget spinners and similar toys may prove useful for providing the optimal amount of stimulation to focus. These fidget toys could also revolutionize the way psychologists deliver treatment, distracting from disturbing past experiences and trauma. In particular, the therapy items have great potential to be purposeful as stress-relievers, an outlet for students to release their anxieties and frustrations in a relatively healthy fashion. The caution that users of fidget toys must take is ensuring that their interest in the tools doesn’t overstep into other areas of their life. At a certain treatment center for eating disorders, I noticed that therapists had to chastise patients for over-using putty, which many played with during instructional time. When we learned Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, we learned a distress tolerance tactic, distract—unfortunately, if the skill was applied to unnecessary situations, it would lose its therapeutic power. Thus, for mental health and neuropsychological disorders, fidget toys may be effective medicine for healing the deep scars of children; nonetheless, balancing genuine attempts at recovery with discipline is key.
Prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pioneered the concept of flow, a state of total consciousness that enables us to fully engage our minds in the enjoyable activity we’ve undertaken. At the same treatment facility, I learned about set-shifting through Cognitive Remediation Therapy tasks, whose purpose was to build flexibility in our brains. Connecting these two theories together, fidget toys could expose our minds to a variety of stimuli when we’re completing the same, monotonous assignment. Refreshed with the mental concentration needed to operate a fidget spinner, the formerly-bored worker would return to his job with a newfound vigor. Fidget toys offer a short burst of stimulation that allow for not only a break from intense work, but also a reframing of our mental state. For students especially, who need to focus in class but may have stayed up late studying, fidget toys (if used appropriately) could prevent them from falling asleep or daydreaming. In any case, fidget toys offer the flexibility to break the mold of rigidity that is often ingrained in our daily routines; individuals who recognize this fact and pursue the popular items for this purpose will likely find them useful.