Everyone knows a fidgeter. That person who is always tapping a pen or bouncing their knee. Now there is a toy for that.
Enter the fidget spinner.
Although it has just recently surged in popularity, the first details for what would become the fidget spinner were actually created over 20 years ago, with the design being patented in 1997. The fidget spinner was created by Catherine Hettinger, an inventor from Florida.
Hettinger has said in multiple interviews that the idea for the fidget spinner came after she took a trip to Israel to visit her sister. Hettinger heard stories about young boys throwing rocks at passing police officers, and she knew she wanted to help the tense situation. So she decided to create something that would keep the young boys so distracted and entertained that they would not even be looking to continue throwing the rocks.
Hettinger invented the fidget spinner as a way for children to focus on something other than acts typically frowned upon. The design seems simple: a palm-sized piece of metal or ceramic that has at least two, equal length and size arms. In the middle, a ballbearing allows for the signature spinning, and an impressively continuous spinning at that.
Although Hettinger did create a device that would become one of the largest toy fads in history, she unfortunately never got a single dime of the huge profits due to her patent running out shortly before the craze began.
“No one has contacted me. Nobody has sent me a check,” Hettinger said in an interview with USA Today. “But once a patent expires, it’s public, so I wouldn’t expect anything at this point.”
With the end of the patent, large companies could make their own fidget spinners for sale, and they could make them even better. You can find fidget spinners that light up, ones in the shape of popular characters or logos, and even ones that have Bluetooth built in.
With such a variety of fidget spinners, it is not that crazy to see that 18 of the top 20 toys sold on Amazon in recent months were some form of a fidget spinner.
While it may have been difficult to find a fidget spinner in the early days of the fad, more companies are continuing to create their own line of spinners, making them much more accessible. Stores across the country sell the incredibly popular toys; stores ranging from Walmart to Circle K all want in on the profits.
Do they help?
One of the big questions that comes up with fidget spinners is, do they actually help with what they were designed to do? Originally, fidget spinners were sold as a way to help children focus, especially children with learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD and autism. They were also intended to help calm anxiety by focusing on the spin, hence the “fidget” in the name.
Although there are many who claim to see improvements in mental behaviors due to the toys, many scientists believe there is no actual gain that the fidget spinners provide.
David Anderson, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, shared a video on Facebook in which he talks about his hesitation to confirm that fidget spinners actually help with mental health.
“The great thing about fidget spinners is that they’ve brought the discussion for what works for ADHD or what might work for anxiety or stress relief to the forefront, which is great for us to have,” Anderson said. ”The only issue is they have about as much scientific evidence for stress relief or for treatment of anxiety and ADHD as a pet rock.”
Fidget Spinners in Schools
Because of their popularity with children, schools across the nation have started to take a stand against allowing a toy in school that appears to distract more than it helps. Whether this means confiscating the device if it is used inappropriately or even completely banning the spinners from a school.
Kingman Unified School District has noticed a rise in the popularity of fidget spinners, but they do not see them as a district-wide issue yet.
“There might be something in the future we have to do, but right now the schools are handling it individually and it’s working,” KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks said. “Hopefully it stays that way.”
Many predict fidget spinners to go the way of the hula hoop or other once popular toys that have since died out.
The craze may last only a few more months or a couple of years, but right now, it looks like the fidget spinner is here to stay.