Fidget spinners have exploded in popularity this spring, becoming the must-have toy for kids in school. Toy stores and other vendors are having a hard time keeping them in stock, and kids are selling and trading them in school. What are these toys? Why are they such a big deal? We took a look into the trend.

What are they?

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

So, what is a fidget spinner? The name pretty much gives it away. They're a spinning toy, often shaped similarly to the ones pictured to the right. They are made of anything from plastic to various types of metal - and even come in super-high end varieties encrusted with diamonds. They are "powered" by a series of ball bearings that enable the device to spin for a period of time. Many utilize steel bearings, while premium spinners utilize ceramic ball bearings.

Where did they get their start?

The devices were created as one of a series of "fidget toys" that also include things like fidget cubes, designed to "harness nervous energy" and help you focus. The concept of these toys is to act as a tool to help those that cope with ADHD, anxiety, and other conditions, but have exploded in popularity among the general public. They began showing up as a popular item in the last few months, and have hit a point of being an all-out craze now that we're in the middle of spingtime.

While they're just catching on now, they were actually invented in 1993 by a Florida woman named Catherine Hettinger. details her story, explaining that she invented the device as a distraction for young children to give them something soothing and fun to play with. After attempting to sell her design to toy companies like Hasbro, she had no luck. In 2005, Hettinger's patent expired, allowing other companies to make and sell the devices without permission from her. Now, many of those very companies that turned her down initially have jumped on making their own versions of the toy.

Why are they getting banned in schools?

As the trend has reached the high point that it has recently, they are being talked about as a distraction in schools. The key reasons being listed include that some of them are noisy and distracting (cheaply-made fidget spinner bearings can be noisier and vibrate more loudly), and that the devices can become a primary focus to play with, rather than a background focus like they were intended to be. Taking that further, anecdotal stories of kids selling or trading fidget spinners in school creates an additional distraction teachers and administrators are concerned about.

What's the point of them?

We did a video around the office, showing off the fidget spinners, and the big questions was "what's the point?" or "what's the big deal with them?" (as seen below). In short, the best answer we can come up with is that they feel kind of cool and it's a simple distraction that requires no batteries and doesn't demand screen time on a device. Even, who asked the inventor, didn't really know. Josh, one of our station staff members, immediately said "I want one" when he spun one in his hand at a local toy store. he said the sensation when you move the spinner between your fingers while it is spinning feels cool.

An employee at Legacy Toys in the Miller Hill Mall said he had a line of people waiting at the store this morning to buy fidget spinners. He said that it is very common to be sold out by noon whenever they get shipments in. Other locations around the area, such as Walgreen's, that sell the devices reported that they were sold out when we called around this morning. They reported that they wouldn't be getting more for a number of days. If you're looking to get ahold of one for your kids (or yourself), here is a list of some places that sell them in the Duluth/Superior area.

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