Fidget spinners are all the rage; people are either praising them or labeling them an evil tool.
The lauders say that the critics are overreacting, claiming that all generations have had their own version of these devices. They compare them to yo-yos or to clackers (you younger folks will probably need to google that) and say the spinner is no worse than these earlier toys.
They may be right. In fact, from what I can tell, they are right.
But what the device does or how its used by kids isn’t the problem.
The issue, in my humble opinion, is why it’s used and why parents buy them to begin with. Let me explain.
When I was growing up, my friends and I sometimes got bored. But we learned early on to not go whining to our parents about it.
I learned that if I whined to my mom about boredom, she had plenty for me to do — clean my room, dust, vacuum, straighten up the basement, and so on. If I whined to my dad, he would hand me a brown grocery bag and send me outside to weed my mom’s gardens. Some of my friends, in my opinion much luckier than I, were told to fire up the lawn mower and get to work.
Faced with those options early on, I and my friends (all our parents seemed to favor the same solutions for boredom) found hundreds of ways to entertain ourselves. Pick-up games of all sort — stickball, Red Rover Red Rover, Mother May I, hopscotch, etc, would entertain us for hours. So did creating things. I’ll never forget spending hours with my best friend converting large cardboard boxes and household items into Barbie houses. By the way, a jar lid atop a spool of thread makes a great patio table at which Barbie and Ken can enjoy dinner al fresco.
We rode bikes, had turtle or frog races, spent hours hunting for the turtles and frogs for the competitions, searched for four-leaf clovers, visited the elderly folks who lived on our block (they loved our company and had great stories — and cookies!), created murals with chalk on our driveways, built and tried out bike ramps, tried to catch tadpoles and crawdads in the local creek, and found a myriad of diversions.
Not once do I remember my parents doing a 60’s or 70’s version of what I see happening all too frequently today.
They never handed me something to keep me busy.
More importantly, they never handed me something to keep me busy so they could text, email, surf the net mindlessly, etc.
Instead, they were busy doing work around the house. Our parents changed their own oil and filters, did their own home repairs, and stayed busy in productive ways.
And when we were together — in the car, at dinner, etc — they were engaged with my sister and I, not by an electric device. We played games, discussed what was going on in our lives, and sang along with the radio or record player.
I’m not some fuddy-duddy who thinks the old days were better than the current ones — but seriously, weren’t they in many ways?
Instead, I am an educator and mother who has observed a growing disconnect between parents and their offspring. A growing tendency to give a child — toddlers, even! — a cell phone or some other electronic device “so Mommy can chat [text] with her friends” or “do something important”.
Throw away the fidget spinners, parents, and put away all the electronic devices.
Your child will be a better person, a more creative person, a more connected person if you do.