Fidget spinners. Slime. Flying water bottles. I’ve read, skimmed and rolled my eyes at the myriad of articles discussing these middle school fads. Every year, there are a few gimmicks that students latch onto for a few weeks or months. They drive teachers nuts and then, eventually, they disappear.
So honestly, I’m tired of talking about the toys of the year. Ban them or don’t, let’s just move on because in a few months, some other annoying toy will replace today’s hot items.
Perhaps my ambivalence towards toy fads is partly because I’ve been dealing with it for 12+ years. Also, I was once a child who enjoyed slap bracelets, beanie babies, and the magic 8 ball. I get where the students are coming from. I once longed to be cool, too.
However, now that I’m a cranky, bitter adult whose skin is so tough it can double as sandpaper, I have little patience for toys in the classroom. No, these are not coping mechanisms for stress, ADHD, etc. They are toys.
My students are quite smart when it comes to getting what they want. The first time I saw a fidget spinner was when one of my academically privileged students brought one to class and asked me if it was okay, it calmed him down. I didn’t know this particular student had anxiety issues, but he is never a behavior issue and always does his work, so I shrugged and said, “Okay.” The spinner was never an issue and I barely noticed the student had it.
Fast-forward to the next week and everyone and their brother had a spinner, only now, the toys came with lights and sounds, making students fidget more than usual. Students saw an opportunity to play and they took it.
At this point, I banned the toys. I confiscated many. I emailed parents. I had students email parents. Students tried to tell me they needed the toys to “calm themselves and relieve stress.” I told them their doctor should let me know if this was true.
The truth is, some students may actually benefit from these toys – but they didn’t need them before the fad, so do they really need them now?!
These toy fads are mostly harmless and useless. My first instinct is always to ban them. However, I’m sometimes a little slow to realize when something is becoming a fad (see fidget spinner story above).
Currently, I am in possession of one fidget spinner until June 14, the last day of school. I’ve thrown away numerous tubs of slime that students thought they could bring to class on the D.L. I’m not against these toys, outside of the classroom. I’m not afraid of parents who are upset that I took their child’s toy. Because it’s a toy. Toys don’t belong in the middle school classroom. Period.