Spinners, the perfect fidget? They are alluring, small, get your fingers going, cheap to buy and even easy to make. Seems like the perfect thing for a fidget right? Well I’m not so sure.
I think a fidget should be small, hand held and get your fingers going. Small is important; because you want to be able to use it in one hand or transfer from hand to hand. The small size also keeps it personal; if you are keeping yourself on task it shouldn’t be at the expense of everyone else around you who’s attention gets pulled by what your hand is doing. In this way spinners aren’t so great, they are very visual, they move fast, which attracts the eye. Our vision is the sense that takes over whenever we catch movement. It is the dominant sense, it takes up half of our brains resources. Because it occupies all that brain real estate you can’t not look, movement draws the eye. If you are sitting alone spinning your new spinner and spacing out, yeah it’s relaxing, a different process than stimulating the sensory cortex to help organize information. A fidget to use for concentrating should be unobtrusive, spinners are eye attracting. And when they get spinning it’s so tempting to extend your arm and make them move through space like some kind of mini UFO.
I did watch someone on public transit with spinner in one hand iphone in the other and eyes locked on the screen. He seemed to be spinning to feel the vibrations. That made me more curious, he was intermittently spinning it with his fingers but I sensed the payoff was the vibration; he never looked away from his screen. Vibration can be very relaxing. Have you ever heard of someone putting their baby to sleep by putting their car seat on the dryer? The cheap version of a stuffed recliner with built in massage option.
I want to know how tactile is it? Fidgets I have are often very tactile, they squish and stretch, you can change their shape with your fingers. Your eyes can be occupied elsewhere, on a page of text, the teachers face, a demonstration or lecture. Knitting or crocheting can be great fidgets when you get good enough that you don’t have to watch every stitch. This kind of handwork involves both hands and so is often held at the midline of the body. Playing with a fidget at your midline means you are not holding it still, exactly at your center, but it is moving back and forth across your midline and the input is moving back and forth across the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This kind of sensory stimulation, a loading of the brain with sensory input, stimulates different regions of the brain to become more alert and coordinated.
It seems we don’t even really know how a fidget works. People who have busy brains, and are easily bored, (usually called ADD) and can take in a lot of stimulus. They often need something visual and auditory going while they are doing something else. Keeping multiple brain areas occupied allows them to think better. And being bored can actually increase our stress levels. It sounds weird but the state of being bored is dull and if you are feeling dull and uninterested you could be in danger. That is if you think of people being out in the wild savannah not sitting in a box in a city.
It seems that fidgeting can boost or lower our attention levels depending on what we need. This is makes sense to me, we have an impulse to change when were are out of self regulation and that change involves moving, well no duh.
Have you tried spinners? Do you fidget? With your hands, feet, mouth, legs? How does it change how you pay attention? I curious about what you experience and what you think about it.