The Fidget Spinner Crackdown in L.A. Classrooms

Fidget Spinner - Getty - H 2017
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Kendall Jenner and Millie Bobby Brown have been photographed with one. So how are L.A.’s private schools supposed to cope with the year's most addictive, status-increasing — and totally distracting — classroom toy?

Fidget spinner mania exploded in 2017, with kids everywhere clamoring for the toy. In fact, in April, versions of the spinner occupied every single place on Amazon's top 20 best-selling toys list. Originally intended as a concentration aid for kids with motor overflow — which creates extraneous movements like knee shaking or leg tapping — spinners soon spread through classrooms and playgrounds like a twirly virus. Barron Trump, Kendall Jenner and Millie Bobby Brown all have been photographed with one, and Kim Kardashian’s gold, dollar-shaped version sold out quickly. “We didn’t know what they were, and all of a sudden they are everywhere,” says Hollywood Schoolhouse’s Ilise Fay.

Psychologist Fay Van Der Kar-Levinson says the initial idea behind the spinner was spot-on. “People with motor overflow can listen much better if they have something in their hands,” she says. Repetitive movement, like spinning an object or squeezing a ball, calms the neurological system and allows for improved concentration. (Famed psychoanalyst Anna Freud was known to knit through sessions to maintain her focus.)

As soon as the twirling gadgets became school fixtures, though, they morphed into distractions, triggering competition and becoming status symbols. Many top L.A. schools have banned them in classrooms, including Laurence, Carlthorp and Wildwood. “For someone who doesn’t need it to help them focus, it does exactly the opposite,” says Levinson, who recommends kids with motor overflow squeeze a soft or squishy item instead. Hollywood School House sent letters home that said fidget spinners cause “many conflicts among peers” after one was mistaken for a weapon on a field trip. Mirman’s head of school Dan Vorenberg explains, “We ask our students to leave these toys at home, and for parents to contact us directly if their student has a proven need for an aid to channel energy in the classroom.”

Not all schools are having trouble with the uber-popular toy, though. Center for Early Education doesn’t have policy in place, noting the spinners haven’t been a problem on their West Hollywood campus. Echo Horizon tries to channel their usage, according to marketing and development manager Maggie Raiken, who says that their 3rd grade classes experimented with spinners last year. “It was an excellent way to relate a science experiment to something the kids care deeply about.”

Levinson’s final take on the spinners: “One of those ‘good intentions paved the way to hell’ things.”