Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad Or Mega Distraction?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them practically everywhere. Thefidget small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/14/527988954/whirring-purring-fidget-spinners-provide-entertainment-not-adhd-help
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/100737096/#scso=uid_WRjMWAAEI3oKY-9KBg83Jg_1:865
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jplafke/2016/12/23/fidget-spinners-are-the-must-have-office-toy-for-2017/amp/
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/the-fidget-spinner-explains-the-world/526521/
http://www.abc15.com/news/national/toy-takeover-whats-behind-the-fidget-spinner-fad

Finance In The Classroom: Tools For Talking To Kids About Money

Getting kids interested and involved in finance can be a real challenge. There’s a gap between what they may want to know and what they have the experience to understand. Finding age-appropriate reading materials, activities, and discussion topics to keep them engaged is a complex problem. Whether you’re a teacher, a church leader, a baby-sitter, aunt, uncle or a parent, being able to engage kids in these conversations is an important skill.
  
Fortunately, the Utah Department of Education has created a set of resources for all of these groups. The website, Finance in the Classroom, can be found at financeintheclassroom.org. It’s a solid collection of resources for kids of all ages.
  
For younger children, the site features a wide range of fun flash games that help them get used to counting money, saving and budgeting. Most of them will respond well to mobile devices and touch screens, meaning that kids can learn valuable lessons on their devices instead of playing mindless games that teach very little in the process. Some games are slightly more advanced and tackle topics like credit card management, investing and even macro-economic policy making! The interactivity is a great way to keep kids entertained and serves as a starting point for financial conversations.
  
Older children may be interested in the various calculators on the site. These include applets that help kids see how much college might cost, how much they should save, and how inflation might affect them in the future. There are also a list of book recommendations for further reading and education.
  
The site also features some tools for adults, like mortgage calculators and credit checklists. There are also quizzes and other tools designed to test adult financial literacy. More than that, though, the site offers discussion-starters and in-home activities designed for parents and children to undertake together. The activities are broken down by grade level and organized around themes like “scarcity” and “supply and demand.” Most of the activities don’t need much in the way of supplies or planning and can help solve the rainy Saturday afternoon problem of what to do.
  
This site is not without its flaws, though. The amount of information can be overwhelming and it doesn’t appear to get regular updates. Some of the information is specific to Utah laws, like specific college savings programs. Still, as a collection of free tools and games, Finance in the Classroom is a great place to start.  

For teens and young adults, Destinations Credit Union offers “On Your Way” – a social network for those interested in learning how to manage their money.  There are interesting blog posts, contests and videos to help this group better cope with new financial responsibilities.

5 Low-Cost Holiday Family Activities


It can be difficult to find something everyone enjoys doing. Uncle Phil wants to watch the football game while Aunt Linda wants to decorate cookies. You’re trying to keep peace without making family time feel like a chore. What can you do to keep everyone happily spending time together without running up a huge credit card bill?
These five activities can help all of you keep the Christmas spirit in your hearts while spending time with your family this holiday season. Best of all, most of these options won’t cost you a dime!
1.) Caroling
It’s a tradition that spans generations. Family and friends get together to spread joy and good will with cheery music. Caroling is an iconic part of the holiday season. If you live in an area where you know your neighbors and the streets are safe, you can carol in your neighborhood. If you don’t, consider making an appointment with an area nursing home or assisted care facility. These homes are often in need of some cheer during the holidays.
You can find sheet music for most holiday classics for free online. You can also find “karaoke” mixes to download onto a smartphone or tablet to help keep your merry ensemble on key. Spending some of your together time practicing is also a good idea. What’s important isn’t how good you sound, though. It’s the fun you have and the joy you spread.
2.) Volunteering
Many churches, food kitchens and other outreach centers offer Christmas dinners for the less fortunate. Spending some of your holiday caring for those who have little-to-nothing can also help keep your family focused on what’s really important. After your kids have unwrapped their presents on Christmas morning, consider taking them to help out at a community pantry. It’ll help them treasure their gifts all the more.
There are plenty of other causes that could use your help. In the days after Christmas, many animal shelters are overwhelmed with “presents” that didn’t quite work out. The overworked volunteers at these shelters need help cleaning up and exercising scared, confused animals. Consider doing some good with your family this Christmas.
3.) Spit-paper
If you’d rather have some light-hearted fun with your family at Christmas, consider this easy game. Sit everyone down in a circle. Each person gets a sticky note or a small piece of scrap paper. On that piece of paper, they write a person’s name – a celebrity, a political figure, even a fictional character. Then, everyone passes to the right.
Without looking at it, every player sticks the piece of paper on their forehead. People take turns asking “yes-or-no” questions about themselves to the group, with the objective of guessing their “new” identity. Questions like “Have I ever existed?” or “Have I been alive in the last 100 years?” are good ways to narrow the range of options. It’s a fun way to have a conversation about current events in a general, light-hearted way.
4.) Re-watch old family movies
Someone in your family may have a huge cache of old tapes in a closet or basement somewhere. These tapes don’t do much besides gather dust for most of the year, but they contain a treasure trove of family memories. If you’re like most families, someone recorded treasured times to document them for posterity, but either never watched them or hasn’t blown the dust off them in years.
Make this Christmas a time to break that tradition. Pick a year and watch the Christmas or birthday parties. Think back to what life was like then and how much things have changed since. Embarrass the kids a little bit in front of their spouses or significant others. You might find it’s a great way to start a new family tradition!
5.) Check out community or school theatre events
There are a great many works of theatre that everyone recognizes as “classics” despite the fact that very few people have seen them. If you asked someone to name a piece of ballet, most might come up with “The Nutcracker.” It features songs that nearly everyone knows, like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies.” Yet, despite its fame, most people have never seen it.
Many performing arts schools and amateur dance troupes put on productions of “The Nutcracker” around Christmas-time. This can be a low-cost way to see a high-culture event. The ticket price is usually low and some organizations even offer free admission with a donation of canned goods. You and your family can take in a fancy show while supporting young and emerging artists. Look for posters in your local grocery store or other community establishments.
No matter what you do this holiday season, it’ll be made special because you do it together. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Family Finance Games For Kids


Usually, paying bills is one of those adult chores that takes time away from family time. It doesn’t have to be that way, though! Getting your kids involved in the family finances can let you take care of your responsibilities and spend time with your children at the same time. It’s easy to say “get your kids involved,” but getting them out of their phones, tablets, and video games for dinner is hard enough. Making financial fitness a game can help it be more of a fun activity and less of a chore. Try these tips to get kids involved in money matters:

1.) The memory game: If you’ve ever played the card game, “Memory,” you know how this works. Put the bills you’re working with face down on the table, then go through each category – ask your child to find the electric bill, then read off the amount to you so you can write the check. This can also be a chance to talk with your child about savings strategies – “What do you think we could do to lower the electric bill?” While they may not have a firm grasp on the solution, getting them thinking about savings early will help build good habits.

2.) The party budget: The next time you’re hosting a sleepover or planning a family activity, set a budget with dollar amounts and walk through the steps involved in setting priorities, allocating funds, and finding cheaper alternatives to expensive activities. Let your child make the decisions as much as possible. Even if it’s $20 that they have to allocate between pizza, movies, and candy, it’ll help them understand the basics of budgeting. This exercise helps your child understand scarce resources and can make it easier to include them in family budget talks.

3.) Play “What If”: Ask your kids questions like what they would do if they found incrementally larger quantities of money. Start with a small amount – $5, for example. Work your way on up to $1,000 or whatever point your child starts to struggle with thinking of the dollar amount in real terms. This can be a great way to get to know where your kids’ financial priorities are at and to start a conversation about saving a portion of financial windfalls. It can also be a great way to talk about what things really cost.