As a paediatrician, I am often asked about toys that appear on the market intended to aid children with development and learning. Things change so fast and there are a number of wonderful educational aids on the market.
Recently I was introduced to “spinners”. The child that brought the toy into my consulting room was playing with it while I took a history from his mother. Intrigued, I asked the child to show me his toy. This in turn led me to do some reading around the new craze.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Interestingly it was described by Forbes magazine as “the must-have office toy of 2017, The spinner is said to relieve boredom and stress for children, particularly those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). More seriously, they may be an effective calming influence on youngsters with special needs.”
At this point however, there is no scientific evidence at this stage to show that the toy aids in supporting children with either ADHD, autism or anxiety. Children who have ADHD may be assisted by a small amount of background activity. If this modality assists your child’s learning style, why not use it as long as it does not disrupt other children in the learning environment.
While I am by no means an educational expert I found the concept really clever. In my own experience as a father I am very aware of different learning styles. Both my children learn completely differently and I recall the differences very clearly.
Just to give you some background, there are generally seven different learning styles. Each one of us usually makes use of a combination of styles though one style may be dominant. The learning styles include :
- Verbal or linguistic where a person may prefer to say things out loud in order to remember them. This learner often enjoys “teaching”other people about concepts in order to retain the information.
- Aural (auditory). Here learning takes place best in the presence of music or sound so listening to a piece of music while studying would be useful. They would also enjoy having information recorded and then played back to them.
- Visual where a person learns best using pictures, images and colour. Drawing mind maps would be useful for this child.
- Social learners enjoy learning in a group or having a study buddy.
- Solitary learners are exactly the opposite. This individual is best left to work by themselves and to do self-study.
- Logical learners make use of logic or reasoning to learn so would not be happy with being told “just because”. You may well get the “why question?”
- Physical or Kinetic learners need movement. They like to be physical, make use of the sense of touch and are very often busy with their hands. A kinetic learner will often be known to want to sharpen his or her pencils while the teacher is explaining. They are not intending to distract the class but instead are probably listening intently.
My personal opinion about “spinners.”
- A child who is a kinetic/ physical learner would get benefit out of this toy.
- For my part I could see this toy being of benefit to the busy children. Having something to busy those little hands while paying attention would encourage concentration.
- In a classroom of 30 children where you have a multitude of different styles the spinner may assist the kinetic learner but be a huge distraction to a visual or solitary learner. I have no doubt that schools have already put in place rules for using spinners. The teacher is the best person to assess the use of any toy in the classroom setting and definitely has extensive experience in a field that is not my own.
- My caution would come in with regards to small parts. As with any toy which has little parts to it, parents need to be vigilant about tiny pieces lying around. Babies are so quick to pop tiny items into their mouths and choking is a reality if any little item is swallowed.
- A later article in Forbes magazine did caution about the choking hazards as well.
We as parents are frequently presented with new, innovative ways of entertaining and stimulating our children. These are often useful but one should bear in mind that they cannot replace conventional medical and educational modalities for treating recognised learning difficulties.
Importantly parents need to be very aware of parts that can come lose in a toy and the associated choking hazards. Over and above this there may be the possibility of little fingers getting caught in the spokes of such toys.
If a spinner is used for a busy child to occupy him or herself while doing homework or studying then by all means give it a try.