Entertainment & Life

What is a Fidget Spinner, and why can’t kids put it down?

Fidget Spinners are the hottest toys in the country

Fidget Spinners are among the hottest toys in the country. The two- or three-pronged gadgets spin endlessly with the help of bearings and weights. They were originally designed to enhance concentration and stimulate learning.
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Fidget Spinners are among the hottest toys in the country. The two- or three-pronged gadgets spin endlessly with the help of bearings and weights. They were originally designed to enhance concentration and stimulate learning.

Move over Beyblades and homemade slime, there’s a new toy craze sweeping playgrounds in Sacramento and beyond.

If you’ve been near a group of elementary school-aged kids recently, and in some cases even high-schoolers, chances are you’ve seen a certain toy whirring between their fingers. It’s not much of a gadget, just a spinning device with two or three prongs, but young people can’t get enough of them. And teachers can’t seem to confiscate them fast enough.

In terms of toys, 2017 is being defined as the year of the Fidget Spinner. As the name suggests, the toy is geared for restless types – that is, the kid in us with energy to burn and not the longest attention span – in that it creates a kind of hypnotic effect. Some use the Fidget Spinner to produce a few tricks, like flicking it from hand to hand or knocking it around like a Hacky Sack.

Think of the toy as a spinning version of the stress ball. The hypnotic whir and its ability to keep restless hands busy have been promoted as helpful for those grappling with attention deficit disorder symptoms.

But for most, just watching a Fidget Spinner whirl like a small fan stuck on full blast is satisfaction enough. The effect is said to provide relief and focus for those who grapple with attention disorder issues.

Here are six things to know about the Fidget Spinner craze:

Q: Who created this toy?

A: No, the Fidget Spinner didn’t originate from Mattel or some other multinational toy corporation. The Fidget Spinner is the creation of Catherine Hettinger, a Florida woman who at one point suffered from muscle weakness and craved a toy that she could easily share during playtime with her daughter. A prototype was created and early versions of the toy were sold at crafts fairs. But her original patent on the toy lapsed in 2005 and she couldn’t afford the renewal fee. According to The Guardian, Hettinger hasn’t made any money from the Fidget Spinner craze.

Q: Why is the Fidget Spinner so popular?

A: Like the Kendama, a Japanese ball-and-cup game made from wood, it doesn’t necessarily take an LED screen or wi-fi connection to keep kids entertained. A game with tactile charm, high portability – especially on the playground – and fairly affordable cost make for a winning toy combo. Unlike some shoot ‘em up video games, parents don’t have to worry about an edginess related to this toy, making it an easy pastime to support.

The price also tends to be nice. While some swanky versions of the Fidget Spinner sell for hundreds of dollars, most can be had for just a few dollars, an amount that’s easy on the allowance.

Q: Where can you buy a Fidget Spinner?

A: Learning Express in Roseville carries a wide range of Fidget Spinners – that is, when they’re in stock. Supplies at Learning Express have been running low, so call first (916-783-6310) to make sure they’re in stock. This old-school sort of toy can also be found at G. Willikers! Toy Emporium in Old Sacramento. As at Learning Express, supplies have run low, so touch base with the store before making the trip (916-447-1091).

Some Walmart stores also carry the toy, and Fidget Spinners have been spotted at various 7-11 locations.

At this point, the Internet is probably your best bet. Amazon.com is the go-to spot for Fidget Spinners, which recently occupied the entire Top 20 of “Amazon best sellers” for toys and games.

Q: Fidget Spinners are touted for easing anxiety and ADHD symptoms, but do they work?

A: Think of the toy as a spinning version of the stress ball, or at least that’s how they tend to be advertised. The hypnotic whir of the Fidget Spinner and its ability to keep restless hands busy tend to be promoted on Amazon as an antidote for anxious situations and helpful for peopel grappling with attention deficit disorder symptoms.

Some research has shown that students with ADHD performed better on tests while fidgeting, but the scientific community hasn’t concluded about the effectiveness of the Fidget Spinner. Julie Schweitzer, a professor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, told the Boston Globe that she’s encouraged by the toys but doesn’t yet consider them a “treatment” for ADHD behaviors.

Q: Why do some teachers want to send the Fidget Spinner straight to detention?

A: The irony to educators is clear: A toy that’s supposed to sooth the easily distracted is causing major distractions in the classroom. At some schools, special-needs students and those who’ve been diagnosed with ADD and other disorders are allowed to use a Fidget Spinner in the classroom, giving a sense of permissiveness that the toy is fair game for all kids. For Areles Gallegos, a fourth-grade teacher at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School in Davis, her classroom’s been swamped with Fidget Spinners for the past three weeks.

“They’re definitely becoming more of a distraction in our environment,” said Gallegos. “I confiscated two of them yesterday within the first 15 minutes of class. It’s becoming such a big phenomenon and everybody wants to have one. I can’t think of another experience with toys like this.”

According to a survey of 200 high schools across the United States by Spinner List, an online Fidget Spinner database, these toys have been banned by 32 percent of the country’s largest high schools.

Q: How long will the Fidget Spinner craze last?

A: Like the Cabbage Patch doll, the aforementioned Kendama and Pogs, it’s inevitable that Fidget Spinners will at some point land on the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s hard to say how long Fidget Spinners will keep their must-have status, but it’s likely the craze will have waned by the end of the 2018 school year.

Unlike Pogs and Pokemon cards, there’s no “gotta collect ‘em all” kind of effect with the Fidget Spinner. Once you’ve scored a Fidget Spinner, there isn’t much impetus for buying a bunch more. And once the kids have got a fill of the Fidget Spinner, they’ll soon be on to the next must-have gadget, leaving the Fidget Spinner to wind down until it’s just another memory from 2017.

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

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