As someone who’s tutored college physics for years, the first thing that struck me when I used a fidget spinner was its educational value.

Most educators see fidget spinners as a waste of time or attention, and I can understand that argument in, say, an English class. But one of the best things to come by in teaching science is easy, visual examples.

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Here’s why fidget spinners are so much fun for a physicist: If you take a fidget spinner and move it any way you want while it’s not spinning, it feels normal. It’s exactly like moving any object of the same weight and size. But set it spinning and it starts to feel strange when you move it around. You can feel it resist changing direction. But you’ll notice quickly that it doesn’t feel strange if you walk forward or backward with it. It only resists being turned.

This strange effect is intensified if you either:

Or all of the above!

This is a higher-level concept (called ‘angular momentum’) which is not nearly as intuitive if you don’t have experience actually feeling it happen. It’s a concept that’s applicable to a physics major or most types of engineering degree.

The fad of fidget spinners is sneakily introducing a whole generation of kids to physics concepts. They think they’re having fun but all the while they’re actually being educated! It’s a rare opportunity for parents to educate their children without saying a word.

A lot of science relies on math at the college levels, but if your child has more experience with how objects move and behave under different circumstances it will help them immensely. It strengthens a child’s intuition to have a toy which so clearly illustrates a rather difficult physics concept.

In my experience, when you build up a kid’s instincts with little things like this, they can often know the right approach to the answer without even doing the math of the problem. In high school and college this type of instinct can be the difference between getting an A and getting a B.

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