(Fidget) Spinners in Counseling

Fidget Spinners are all the rage these days.  They are in every grocery store, gas station, and school.  Kids can’t seem to get enough of them– mine included, but, do they really help?

Pros of fidget spinners:

  1. Kids Feel Socially Accepted – If a student has a fidget spinner, they are with the “In Crowd.”  I have seen it myself.  As soon as a student starts spinning their fidget spinner, a crowd of people will stop to watch.  Instant conversations start taking place, and friendships can be forged.  
  2. Can Help As A Sensory ToyLet’s face it, spinners help with sensory input.  Kids can become mesmerized by watching and holding the spinners.  Fidgets in general can help students with sensory issues be successful, as students use them as a self regulation skill to monitor their own behaviors.  They can have a calming effect–but only to some.  
  3. They have more than one use – Fidget spinners are, well, toys.  And, like any toy, kids can use their imagination to use it for more than just to spin.  A friend or mine, Yanique from Kiddie Matters blog, uses them in her counseling program to get kids talking about Social Skills.
These fidget spinner social skills games are great for children to practice social skills. These counseling activities can be used by parents, teachers and counselors. They are a nice addition to any social skills lessons.:
If you look on Pinterest, you will find a lot of other ways spinners are being used in the classroom as well.  You will find them used as game board spinners, challenges for STEM projects, in creative writing and math.  Their uses are unlimited.

Cons of fidget spinners:

  1. They are a toy – When I was a kid, Cabbage Patch dolls were all the craze, so were Beanie babies, Webkinz, Rubik’s Cubes and SIlly Bandz (those little jelly bracelets that came in different shapes that kids wore on their arms by the dozens) and now there are Fidget Spinners.  It’s only a matter of time before the fad dies out.
  2. Schools are banning them So many students in our school were using them, that they actually became a distraction.  The best fidget spinners are those you cannot see (or hear) but students can use under their desk as a sensory distraction.  Too many of our students couldn’t use 1 hand to operate their spinners and they were out constantly.  The whirl they made was sometimes loud as well, causing a distraction to those students sitting nearby.
  3. They wore out their welcome – Similar to the other latest fads, when not used properly they do not function in the same manner. When children over use the fidget or do not use it for the intended purpose it just becomes the latest and greatest toy.
I really liked the idea of Fidget Spinners.  Students need opportunities to use self regulation skills and find coping skills to use to help them they are feeling stressed, distracted, and anxious.  I wanted to work on coping skills as the school year winded down, so I came up with a calming spinner that would be a suitable alternative to the ones sold in stores–plus a lot cheaper!

I thought back to the paper spinners I made with my dad when I was a kid.  We were always making things from windup cars made out of match sticks, match stick boxes, rubber bands and empty thread spools, to spinners made from paper plates and string.  I would play with those “toys” for hours, simply winding them up and watching them go.  So I decided to give the paper spinner a little update with a counseling twist.  Take a look at this video.

I decided to mix the art of coloring a zen inspired doodle with the fidget spinners of my youth. Calming patterns coupled with a calming quote leads for great discussions with students.  
After putting together several designs, I printed them on card stock to make them a little heavier and stiffer.  I had my students each pick 2 designs to color (one for the front and one for the back). As the students colored, we talked about the quotes they picked, what had stressed them out during the week.  As they finished coloring their spinners, they then cut them out and glued the 2 sides together.  Using a pencil, we poked 2 holes a little less than a 1/2 inch apart in the center of the spinners.  Using string, we fed the string through the holes and tied the ends together.  To start them off, just twist the strings and then pull tight.  With a little practice you can keep the spinners going and rewinding and unwinding by adjusting your tension as you pull.  It became a contest who could keep their spinner going the longest.  
The great thing about these fidgets, is that are also mesmerizing like the store bought ones, but they truly have a counseling purpose and incorporate several coping skills into one.  
Try making your own, or you can use mine.  Here is the link:
If you have any great ideas for using Fidget Spinners in your counseling program, I would love to hear about it.  Make sure to leave me a comment!

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