Fidget spinners are everywhere. The photo here was captured this morning on the way into school. That little blue wonder spinner showed up in our home without us even knowing it last week. My 8 year-old got it at the 2nd-grade market our school put on! And I’ve even heard about a set of savvy middle-school students in the midwest using a 3-D printer to make their own. Hello, New World of Toys and Toy-Making. This just a reminder that these fidget toys are often cheap and easy to get ahold of so parents may not even know when one’s safely tucked in a backpack of a school-aged child or teen.

I played with one for the first time this morning and lemme say this: I get the draw.

Spinners are here to stay, at least for the rest of this school year, and teachers/parents/schools are making up the rules as we go. But yesterday when I interviewed with TODAY.com about potential choking risks after a 10 year-old needed surgery to remove a piece of a similar spinner from her esophagus, and I later learned the (now, not confirmed story — urban legend aka “fake news?”) tale that a teacher sustained a serious eye injury when one spinner went flying and fell apart. Although the injury is likely theoretic I got to thinking about what to know and how we can parent with the latest craze. The Facebook shares on this story have gone viral with over 700,000 shares and 75,000 comments in the past few days (*update 5/22/17: Facebook link has since been taken down). Clearly, spinners are on many of our minds.

The choking events will hopefully be exceedingly rare, as will the injuries from fidget spinners, but we can think clearly about how to enjoy these silly little objects and not go bananas or have anyone get hurt.

Quick Recommendations For Fidget Spinners:

A couple ways to think on reducing risks, by age. The bottom line is children and teens should know that these objects are made with cheap-o construction and may be sold without safety in mind. We should all know that they can destruct with use and break off into small pieces.  Bottom line: remind kids they should never go in their mouths.

  • Age 3 and under: Clearly infants and toddlers aren’t and shouldn’t be the target users of these gadgets. Spinners and fidget tools are typically marketed in packaging warning of risks for children under age 3 years due to size of the objects. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has strict guidelines about risks for toys with detaching small parts or toys that, with use or abuse, destruct (like these cheapy spinners do) and break off into pieces. Bright colored spinners are something that will draw in a toddler so clearly keeping them up and out of reach makes sense. Children under age 3 naturally explore with their mouths and we never want these things chewed on (choking risk galore).
  • Age 3 to 6 years: thankfully our 3 to 6 year-olds still like to have us around and we typically control what they do during the day and play with at this age. I suggest if a younger child is allowed to use a fidget spinner in this age range, it be allowed so only with supervision throughout the time of play. Children should be reminded they are not allowed in their mouths.
  • Age 6 and up: this may be the wild west of the fidget spinner years. Super cool to these kids, and widely available, too (a little allowance money can go a long way). Children and teens should be reminded that they may break, fly off into parts, or can detach. They should never put them in their mouths. The minute they break or look cracked or broken, they should be thrown out. And the sneaking them into class? I dunno, maybe that’s worth a conversation, too. I know many classrooms across the country have banned their use and we can use injury risks as a way to frame the issue.

Spinners are just a little fad, of course, but perhaps worth a quick conversation at home. The carpool of kindergartener to 4th-graders I drove this morning said “OH YES!” when I asked if they wanted one. One of my riders told me they “were available online for under $10 and could be shipped overnight.” Smart kids. Let’s help them be smarter fidgeters, too.

*post updated 5/22/17 with evolving information.