• Question: What does research say about pupils fiddling whilst learning. For instance clicking pens, tapping tables....is there a positive effect on their learning....is there a negative effect on their peers?

    Asked by cumbersd17 on 10 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Jo Taylor

      Jo Taylor answered on 10 Jan 2018:

      Hi there, I’m afraid I don’t know of any research on this. The only thing I would say is that excessive fiddling/restlessness can be related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But of course only if combined with many of the other symptoms so just fiddling is not a cause for concern.


      Sorry not to be more helpful.

    • Photo: Lucy Cragg

      Lucy Cragg answered on 11 Jan 2018:

      I had a look but there seems to be very little empirical research on this. I found one review paper on fidget spinners (behind a paywall sadly: http://journals.lww.com/co-pediatrics/Abstract/2017/10000/Fidget_spinners___Purported_benefits,_adverse.17.aspx) which concludes that the alleged benefits of sensory toys “remain scientifically unfounded”. The limited evidence of a positive benefit comes from one study in boys with ADHD suggesting that those with more intense motor activity (measured by an actometer on their ankle) did better on a computer-based task that involved ignoring distractions (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09297049.2015.1044511?scroll=top&needAccess=true). There’s also one study which showed a reduction in distraction incidents and student reports of increased attention when they used stress balls (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ853381.pdf). There seems to be lots of anecdotal teacher reports that these kind of things are distracting for other children in the classroom but it doesn’t seem that there’s any research investigating this.

    • Photo: Yana Weinstein

      Yana Weinstein answered on 22 Jan 2018:

      On the whole, there is no evidence that fiddling helps learning. In fact, it can actually distract. We wrote a blog post about this here: