Fidget Spinners: Are They This Generation’s Doodles?

Child Doodling with Markers

The history of doodling has evolved as the history of writing instruments have progressed. What started as scratching rocks against caves as means for communication has evolved into creative ways people choose to fidget and pass the time when they’re bored or anxious. From writing in the margins of notebooks, on scraps of paper, and nearly anywhere there’s a surface, doodling comes in many forms.

In the 1980s, when Trapper Keepers were all the rage, it would be rare to find a “blank” binder that wasn’t full of stickers and Sharpie doodles. This period of doodling was the result of boredom from teenagers in class, but it was also a way to express feelings about their favorite bands, gossip about their teachers, and share messages of love for their boyfriend/girlfriend. Remember doodling your crush’s initials paired with yours in a heart? Oh, the memories! The doodles of the 80s were a way to pass time until the bell rang, but they also usually meant something personal to the one doodling.

As doodlers transitioned into the grunge era of the 90s, pen marks of circles, hearts, and bubble lettering transferred from paper and onto jeans and shoes; sometimes even making its ways to arm, legs, and hands, as well. For some, these doodles might have been the precursor to first tattoos. Doodles of this decade were a combination of fidgeting and a reflection of the person’s artistic and emotional side.

Enter Fidget Spinners

Do kids today still doodle like they did in decades past? It’s not surprising to see a notebook or two still filled with sketches and scribbles. But in many cases, laptops or iPads have replaced paper notebooks. If pen and paper are no longer the primary or preferred form of note-taking, how do people doodle? The fidget spinner, this year’s toy craze, has taken over schools across the country. What seems like a simple innovation has captured the attention of many.

Child Playing with Fidget Spinners

Fidget spinners were created to help kids release stress in a positive way. Some suggest they provide health benefits and soothing side effects. Does this mean we’ve learned to fidget better? Was all the doodling of years past child’s play and the way we fidget now a smarter way to avoid boredom? Not necessarily.

The Benefits of Fidgeting

One of the key points made about fidget spinners being more than just a toy trend,  bringing doodling and fidgeting full circle, is that the body movements used to play with the fidget spinner is part of the expression process. In one Forbes article, where they break down the science of fidget spinners, it says, “fidgeting could actually help you think and express yourself.” Ultimately, the fidgeting tool or medium doesn’t matter, it’s the attempt to relieve stress that’s the common denominator.

Much like the use of worry stones and stress balls in the past, the use of fidget spinners is a comforting habit that helps combat anxiety in a benign way. Whether or not fidget spinners truly provide health benefits is still up for discussion, but what is certain is that humans naturally seek out stress relief, and this generation is no exception. Whether it’s with a pen and notebook, a marker and sneakers, or a fidget spinner, it’s proof that sometimes the simplest things are what can calm us down and help us focus.