Do Fidget Toys Work? — My latest for Paste Magazine

I got my first fidget toy a couple of weeks ago at my friend T’s birthday party. We were at their kitchen table playing Munchkin when I suddenly started experiencing sensory overload. I never played Munchkin before, so between trying to learn all the rules plus everyone talking, I felt anxious and fidgety. (I’m not autistic, but I do have ADHD, and some people with ADHD experience sensory processing problems.) I started playing with T’s fidget toy, and I started feeling calmer. T noticed this, so they gave me a simple green-and-white wooden spinner with four rings that spin in different directions. I became so immersed in the fidget toy that I forgot I was supposed to be learning how to play Munchkin.

Three weeks later, I still have my fidget toy (in fact, I’m playing with it right now as I think of what to write next). It helps center me when I’ve got too much sensory stimuli around me, like when I’m listening to a podcast while trying to do other projects (not something I recommend). However, being a good skeptic, I know very well that personal anecdotes don’t prove anything, so I decided to do some research. What I found was that with most things in science, it’s complicated.

Click here to read the rest.


  1. says

    I don’t know if if helps people relax, but I did use it to pique my students’ curiosity. I got them thinking about gyroscopes and similar things like bicycle wheels.

  2. David B. says

    I bought a fidgit spinner on Friday, as much to annoy my son (who had got himself one from the local store after being told he wasn’t to) as anything. It’s quite a heavy thing and spinning it was fun for a while, but I couldn’t help but think there must be a way of spinning it faster!

    So my (forgiven) son and I broke out the Lego Technic and started making fidgit spinner spinners. First off was a manually cranked effort with two 4:1 ratio step-up gear assemblages, for a total 16:1 advantage. It certainly could develop the speed, but the crank motion meant the delivery wheel jerked around at anything more than moderate input, limiting what we could achieve. Then I turned up a pull-and-release spring drive from a very old Technic go-cart kit, which we incorporated into a frame with a short crank handle on one side and a delivery wheel on the other (initially we tried gearing up the output but the spring just wasn’t up to the job). Crank the handle anticlockwise as far as it will go, place the wheel over the hub of the spinner, and release. The spring mechanism delivered smooth acceleration up to some impressively fast rates, and because the mechanism was free to rotate past the point where the spring delivered its power, it was easier to remove the device from the spinner. It was even possible to spin it up on a finger and experience some excellent gyroscopic effects (or just enjoy the pose factor).

    I don’t know what other benefits these toys might have, but for a couple of hours at least my son and I didn’t have a care in the world.

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