Fidget Spinners – annoying fad or a great workshop fiddle toy?

If you are a parent or someone who spends much time with school aged children, the fidget spinner can’t possibly have escaped your attention. If you are a teacher, I can almost hear you cursing under your breath!

If you have no idea what I am talking about, I got my 9 year old to do a demo:


I believe they were first created as a sort of stress reliever and are potentially useful for children with ADHD or Autism. Whatever their origins, they are now the latest playground craze set to drive any teacher up the wall and something that every child seems to rather love.

When I was at school we used to flick bic biros round our thumbs, but that was back in the dark ages……

I can imagine 28 children in a classroom all playing with these and not doing their maths, showing each other their latest moves (my daughter can make it spin on her head) and very much not paying attention. I am not about to enter into the ban them/not ban them in school debate.

I’m more interested in workshops! Could they actually be a good thing for a workshop full of eager adults?

I often provide my participants with fiddle toys, so now I’m wondering if these may just hit the mark.

A fiddle toy (or perhaps fidget toy) is something for a workshop participant to play with. It is something to fiddle with while they are learning. This could be something simple like lego or plasticine, or something more custom make for the job like stress balls, or bendy plastic figures. So, why are they helpful?

  • They are useful to keep people focused on the content of the workshop while giving their hands something to do, rather like doodling whilst talking on the phone to someone. Increasingly we are not great at paying attention these days and having some kind of small physical activity can be useful.
  • We all learn in different ways, with some people being predominantly kinaesthetic learners. These people need to touch and feel and play with things to learn, it helps information go in. Other people are happy to just listen, some people prefer things written or drawn and in reality we are all a bit of a combination.
  • There is some suggestion that regardless of how fidgeting helps to keep people’s attention on the task, it also helps with memory and retention of information.
  • Some people are just natural fidgets, and this is a good way to channel their fidgetry if you need them to sit down for a bit! We all know people who just seem to have excess nervous energy, well for those people having something to fiddle with can be an outlet. I actually think there is probably a fidget in us all…….
  • Some participants may be a bit nervous or anxious, and having something as a moderate distraction can be useful to put them at ease. It deflects a bit from a room full of expectancy that sometimes comes with a workshop!
  • I always think that fiddle toys are brilliantly adaptable for an ice breaker or energiser. What better way to get people talking than put some funny looking objects or toys on the table? I can already think of at least 3 different activities I could use them for…..

I’d love to know what you think.

Do you use fiddle toys in your workshops, and will you be trying fidget spinners? Or are they just another annoying fad?

To find out more about my nest workshops click here.


Posted in Uncategorized, Workshops and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Hi, I’m intrigued to know your ideas for using them in workshop activities. That would definitely be fun! I kind of think that multi-tasking is over-rated myself. I find I do things better and quicker if I focus on one thing a t a time. And if other people are spinning their fidgets whilst I’m trying to listen to someone talking I’m going to find that really distracting. However, I can’t deny that there’s something compelling and satisfying about seeing what tricks you can do with a fight spinner. I can imagine your workshop participants rising to the challenge as the competition hots up!

    • Hi Hannah, thank you for your comment! I’m thinking particularly about ice breakers for workshop activities – so perhaps a bit of a who can spin it the longest, or think of alternative uses (passing it round and miming an action such as using it as a steering wheel and getting people to guess), or perhaps a bit of active listening since they make a noise – everyone close their eyes and locate the person who’s spinning. Just some examples!
      I don’t really see it as multi tasking (totally agreed this is over- rated!) as when people fiddle with things it’s usually without paying a great deal of attention to it. Most fiddle toys are just like doodling – something to do while you are giving your primary attention to something else.
      Mind you – the whirring noise may drive everyone else a bit bonkers, so I haven’t quite decided whether they will be brilliant or slightly annoying, so I totally get your point!!

  2. They’ve not featured yet but I’m sure they will when we have a room full of young people on a Duke of Edinburgh award training day. Rather than just telling them to stop playing, I’ll have a more open mind now about their use. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m wondering if I might try to come up with a few fidget spinner ice breaker and energiser activities to share following this blog – watch this space!

  4. Hi Helene, I can see the potential for this toy as an ice breaker – it’s great for getting people to relax and, as you say, getting them to talk. It’s also great for dexterity, coordination and fine motor skills at school, so I would be totally against banning them!! I’m also sure they could be used to solve all sorts of maths problems too and make maths more fun! I have always understood that in learning situations anything where we have to concentrate on something, helps us to focus on the learning that comes next – it clears the brain, so to speak, of the distractions and leaves it free for the learning. So, I would say that spinners make a great tool for workshops as you need to concentrate to do the tricks. You can always give them out in different colours to get people to move around and find a partner to work with who has one that is the same colour as theirs, I’m looking forward to reading your ideas for ice breakers as I might invest in some for my own workshops!

  5. Thanks Rebecca! I like the idea of using them to solve maths problems and love your colour coding idea too! I really do think that having something else to fiddle with when you are in a situation of concentration does relax you and as you say, sort of clear the brain. We often think a bit too much which can get in the way of what we are learning, fiddling with things is sort of automatic and doesn’t need much thinking about. I do also think they can be used as a stand alone activity – as indeed they do need some level of concentration to do the tricks (I know – I’ve tried!).

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