Do fidget toys really work?

Fidget spinner, the latest buzz in the children and even in adolescents has been perfect example of how to control fidgeting and was basically made to gain more focus and educate your kid with toys. The popularity rose immensely but was it due to the new concept of toy or do fidget toys really work?

Let’s get into a bit of science of fidgeting.

According to studies, average attention span of an adult is 20 minutes and after that we are often found distracted or doing something that refocuses our mind. Attention span of a child is often even less, and the amount of fidgeting they do is much more.

Sensory integration and focusing is the way our bodies respond to sensory inputs. People with high threshold to neurological input to their sensory system, seek for more input and thus calm their nervous system.

Ever found yourself shaking leg, playing with your hair or twirling your pen or pencil, yes, those are the signs of fidgeting. But why do our brains need to do that?

Well, children who suffer from ADHD/ADD i.e. attention disorders or hyperactive requires more sensory input than normal for their brain to wake up and pay attention. Arousal of their brain is always on higher threshold and that is why you will notice hyperactive people are able to concentrate well when they are moving. So even the small amount of movement like fidgeting with hands, increases the levels of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. All these chemicals released help them to concentrate more.

Sometimes, even listening to music while reading helps you to focus more. That’s why you will see a lot of readers with their earphones plugged in ears. It helps them from distractions around.

With so many sensory information around, an unfocused mind will wander and in order to filter out not needed inputs, fidget toys could be a great way, encouraging to focus attention on the primary task and leaving rest on the toy.

Hands could be a great way to regulate attention in an environment, mainly due to the part it plays in controlling primary motor cortex and primary somatosensory cortex, parts of the brain which are responsible for processing and integrating information.

That’s why fidget toys could actually be effective in regulating our attention span. Also, effectiveness depends on what type of a fidget toy it is and how it is made.

Some factors that affect are-

  • It shouldn’t defeat its purpose by making more noise and being more distracting.
  • It should be safe for kids and the material used for the toy must be children friendly
  • It should be relatively cheap and durable as its going to be used for a lot of time and should be sturdy enough.
  • Should provide the correct sensory input through texture, shape or sensations that is soothing and doesn’t have an opposite effect leading to distraction.

Fidget toys are helpful for the children suffering from attention-span disorders, however, due to its popularity and wide availability, children not actually suffering from such condition are addicted to playing with them. Fidget toy definitely becomes a fad, if not used properly. They are greatly helpful and increase concentration power in children suffering from ADHD but the opposite is not true. As indicated by a research paper on “Child Neuropsychology” which consisted of 44 kids aged between 10 and 17, 26 with ADHD and 18 without, kids without ADHD did not perform well with fidget toys.

Therefore, fidget toys are one way to keep distractions away for anyone who needs that, otherwise its just a toy for any other human being and should not be used as a tool to focus.

Mandy Wright
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