#Opinion Of The Day

Let the kids fidget

No need to get in a spin over fidget spinners, there are worse ways for children to channel their energy

Recently, a small, simple toy captured the attention of people, young and old.

The fidget spinner, as it is known, consists of a flat body with two to five arms. It has a bearing in the middle that you grip with a thumb and finger while you twiddle the toy to make it, well, spin.

It supposedly helps people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus, sort of like twirling a pen.

It is one of those things that turn up once in a while and make you question "why?".

As in, why would anyone spend money on something like this? And why can't people simply continue spinning pens?

Due to fears that students would be distracted, or somehow end up hurting themselves, some teachers here have dealt with it in the most Singaporean way possible - banning it altogether.

Curious about the hype, I got myself a fidget spinner.

I was sceptical about it, but I figured that if I want to criticise something, it's only fair to try it myself first.

Fidget spinners, said to help those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, have become mainstream toys. ST PHOTO: DAVE LIM


Like when I completed a vertical marathon because I wanted to dismiss it as "easy" (it was not). Or when I attended spin cycling classes so I could call them "basic" (they were).

There are many fidget spinner brands on the market with fancy names such as Raptor and Zekpro. Mine was from the well-known brand of "mama shop opposite my office".

As I held the red gadget in my hand, I imagined this would be what holding my first child would feel like: What in the world am I supposed to do with this thing?

While these fidget spinners might seem ridiculous now, we must remember that at some point, the toys of yesteryear were probably viewed as silly too.

I started playing around with it.

It fitted between my fingers perfectly. As I spun it, it was like my fingers were on a merry-go-round. A really, really tiny merry-go-round.

I could feel the smoothness of the axle as it rotated. Endlessly. It really spun for quite long, and I think I accidentally got hypnotised at some point.

It was actually kind of fun to play with. It was an outlet for energy, and I could see how it played a small part in helping to calm nerves or stress even.

I asked some colleagues in the office if they wanted to try it. But they avoided it like the plague, fearing the ridicule that would surely come. One of them held it above the cap I was wearing, and said it resembled one of those propeller beanie hats.

Inspired by that comparison, I took my fidget spinner along when I went to the Army Open House at the F1 Pit Building last weekend. There I was, rotating my little fidget spinner furiously, against the backdrop of Apache attack helicopters.

I was starting to see the benefits of the toy. The fidget spinner is convenient and nondescript. It's one of those rare cases where big is not necessarily better.

Anyway, if you were really stressed and needed a jumbo-sized fidget spinner, you could always look upwards at the ceiling fan.

And if you were on the verge of depression, you could go hug the Singapore Flyer, only the second largest fidget spinner in the world.

Kids like the toy because they can easily take it around and play with it anywhere.

They even perform tricks, like tossing it from one hand to the other while spinning. I tried, but all I managed to do was to verify that my fidget spinner was extremely hardy and would not break easily despite being dropped on the floor multiple times. Another colleague commented that at least this fidget spinner fad was better than that bottle flipping nonsense.

You know, the one where people flipped half-filled bottles to see if they could land upright, with a thumping sound.

And that is precisely the reason fidget spinners should not be banned. I can think of many worse ways for kids to channel their energy, and a tiny toy like this is literally a small issue.

If distraction is a concern, then perhaps the fidget spinner could be a trigger to teach kids about responsibility, that there's a right time and place for everything.

It is true that people without ADHD are also playing with the toys, but let us not get to a point where you have to show a doctor's note saying you have ADHD before you can own a fidget spinner.

Also, while these fidget spinners might seem ridiculous now, we must remember that at some point, the toys of yesteryear were probably viewed as silly too.

Remember collecting those erasers with country flags on them, and having those battles where you tried to flip yours on top of your opponents' with one finger?

Or collecting Pokemon cards, which probably seem even more pointless now with the interactive Pokemon Go?

Let us just leave the kids and their fidget spinners alone.

#opinionoftheday is a column for younger writers in the newsroom to write about issues that matter to them and their peers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline ' Let the kids fidget'. Print Edition | Subscribe