They’re everywhere. Fidget toys are trending, but why? Studies have shown that these self-regulation tools help people of all ages reduce restlessness, stress and improve focus. By directing antsy behaviors toward a device, a person is less likely to disrupt the classroom or workplace to relieve their anxiety. Despite recent toy demands, fidgeting itself isn’t a new concept; common fidgeting behaviors include finger tapping, knuckle cracking, hair twirling and pencil chewing. Those outlets for restlessness though may soon be a thing of the past.
Want to score better on your SAT’s or standardized tests? – Join fine arts! This is an argument widely used by fine arts teachers to recruit for their programs, or sell their craft to young students and parents. Research studies by the hundreds substantiate claims that fine arts – particularly music education – help develop skills needed to think critically, problem solve, and analyze data which all lead to an on average elevated standardized testing experience. While some can view this as an amazing advocacy of music education, I think it perpetuates an ideology that is fundamentally wrong with the way we approach the arts, specifically in education. These statistics serve to quantify the importance of arts in an objective way, which is important in its own right, but art is subjective and has unique importance aside from its auxiliary interdisciplinary benefits.
I grew up with seven boys—three of them were my brothers, two of them my step brothers, and the other two were my next door neighbors. We were all around the same age—the greatest age difference between the oldest and the youngest was six years—so we spent a lot of time outside playing games together. One of our favorite games to play was called “Be Whoever You Wanna Be,” which was just a really long name for playing pretend. Sometimes we would pretend to be characters from our favorite show or sometimes we would pretend to be warriors from a made-up race. The possibilities—and the hours we spent playing these various types of pretend games—seemed endless.
Dr. Carol Tang is the Executive Director of the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco. She is on the Board of Directors for the National Afterschool Association, the How Kids Learn Foundation, and Artists United as well as a reviewer for the academic journal, Afterschool Matters. She previously was employed as the team lead for out-of-school time grant making portfolio at the S.D. Becthel, Jr. Foundation, the director of the Coalition for Science After School, and head of exhibitions and public programs at the California Academy of Sciences. Carol has a Ph.D. in paleontology and is the author of the Jurassic articles in the Encylopaedia Britanica Online. You can reach her on Twitter at @CarolTang1.
Education methods have always aimed to ensure future generations are fully prepared to contribute to the working force as adults. But what about preparing children to also function as social members of society? More recent approaches to education are now focusing on developing wholesome, happy children with the ability to develop healthy relationships and persevere through the trails of life.
It’s difficult thinking up new ways to keep children interested, stimulated and occupied day-to-day. In fact, the same can be said for all cognitive beings. Preventing boredom in children, adults and even animals can reduce stereotypic behaviors (such as nail-biting, hair-twirling and pacing) and have profoundly positive effects on their quality of life. By introducing new stimuli, you are providing a person or pet with an interesting, and sometimes challenging distraction.