If your life includes teaching or parenting middle schoolers, you’re probably aware of these popular tween obsessions—slime, fidget spinners, and water bottle flipping. Whether you’re getting a break from these trends or about to start dealing with them in your camps and classes this summer, here are some of the pitfalls and payoffs of these crazes, according to these news articles:
Focus promoters or detractors?
PITFALL: Kids have gone crazy for fidget spinners, a gadget they can spin while balancing it on their thumb. The toys have been marketed as fun tools to help kids focus—even those dealing with stress, ADHD, anxiety, and autism. But there’s not much science to back that up, reports Vox, an online news source.1
Mark Rapport, a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida, has found that full body movement – like cycling and running – engages the brain regions involving focus. But that’s very different than flicking a fidget spinner, which is “more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD,” he says.
According to one teacher blogger, “The only thing my students seem to focus on … is the spinner, itself, and not their work.”
PAYOFF: But even if fidget spinners are one big distraction, they’re a healthier distraction than the ubiquitous cell phone. “There is very compelling evidence that constantly checking for messages and updates significantly interferes with your ability to concentrate, which in turn impairs learning,” Rapport says.
Water Bottle Flipping
Annoying games over addictive screens?
PITFALLS: Flipping water bottles, a game in which kids obsessively practice tossing plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes so that they land just so, has become annoying, loud, and often incessant for adults in proximity, says TODAY Parents.2 “The SOUND of those water bottles thudding is killing me softly. … I find that thudding to be the 21st-century equivalent of nails on a chalkboard,” says Deanne Hoggard, a mother of three boys in middle and high school in Florida.
“The games and challenges are endless,” adds Kristalee Overdahl, a mom from Maryland. “I don’t know what I dislike more: the thudding sounds or the ‘Hey, Mom, watch this.’”
PAYOFFS: Other parents welcome the alternative as a form of simple enjoyment and a healthy alternative to screen time. “I think it’s fantastic that they can occupy themselves for hours with a simple water bottle,” said Millet Israeli, a mother of two sons in Manhattan. “No fighting, no screens. Thumbs up from me!”
A Slippery Business?
PITFALLS: If you were thinking of delighting kids with slime-making at camp this summer, think again. Mixing up homemade slime has become so popular that stores have struggled with shortages of Elmer’s glue, according to TODAY Parents.3 Young entrepreneurs selling slime in their schools and online can hardly stay supplied with ingredients.
Casey Duke, an eighth-grader from Florida, sells her various slime concoctions through her Etsy store Fruity Slime Factory—she has an eye-popping 58.9K followers on Instagram. Her mom Julie says locating supplies has taken its toll. “Between her father and I, we have made many trips many times to many different stores and locations, including Amazon, in search of the various supplies Casey wants and needs to create her unique and special slime.”
PAYOFFS: But helping kids do something creative with their hands is always a good thing, right? “Bubblegum slime and clear slime are a couple of my favorites because of their unique textures,” Casey says. Her secret recipes have included such ingredients as glue, corn starch, food dye, foam hand soap, shaving cream, scented hand sanitizer, and lotion. She also adds interest with glitter, nail art, foam beads, or sequins.
“Casey has developed an outside interest and hobby that doesn’t include any dangerous or harmful outside influence,” her mom says. “At the same time, her creativity and learning about what it takes to become an entrepreneur at an early age is very important to me.”
What’s Your Take?
Whether you embrace the trends or simply tolerate them, it’s always helpful to be in the know. Those planning to tolerate? Establish clear boundaries up front. And indulgers beware: check stores before counting on any of these trends for prizes, projects, or promises.