It’s not every day that a toy first created for people with autism or anyone who stims becomes a viral sensation. Last month, the fidget cube got thrown into the limelight.
This toy, which originally started on Kickstarter, is a small square box with different sensory stimulating exercises from pressing buttons to clicking switches to rotating a lever similar to a game controller. Some of these exercises make noises, and all are meant to relieve stress. In tandem to this tiny box, a competitor arose. Spinners, which are technically an older device, look like a three prong mini boomerang with a central control button. People can press these buttons to make the spinners go, also relieving stress.
Both toys sold thousands of units in the past month in the US alone. There are now also YouTube videos that show how to make your own fidget toy by using 3D printers. As a mother of a child with autism, I am thrilled that these toys are getting such attention and are becoming so widely available. However, many schools have started banning these toys, a decision which is controversial. Here is our take on the current fidget toy interest and why we hope they are here to stay.
Fidget toys in various forms have always existed. For the fidget spinner, there are various conflicting accounts on how the spinner was created. Some credit Catherine Hettinger, a chemical engineer, with inventing a similar spinning device after witnessing boys throwing rocks at the police in Israel, with the intention of developing a way to release pent up energy. Other potential sources for the fidget spinner include Scott McCoskery, who invented a spinning device to cope with his own fidgeting behaviors at work.
The fidget cube is a more recent creation, funded through a Kickstarter in 2016. Brothers Matthew and Mark McLachlan created the device in response to their fidget tendencies and a lack of appropriate options for the workplace to relieve those behaviors. They wanted to create something that would be suitable for a professional setting and also provide many fidget choices. The Kickstarter was incredibly successful, earning well over three million dollars.
There are many other fidget toys options out there besides these two popular toys. Fidget rings are an excellent way to keep hands busy. In a previous article, we mentioned sensory pens, which users can touch for calming tactile sensations. Of course, the well-known stress ball is technically an essential fidget toy and comes in several tactile and visually appealing options. There are even rare earth magnets that one can use for fidget purposes, which make interesting noises when rolled together. These do not even begin to cover all the options, and there is plenty to find by checking online for unique fidget toys.
Why Kids and Adults Like it
Fidget toys mainly give people something to do with their hands. For individuals with autism, this is of particular importance. Those with autism will sometimes stim in stressful situations – these behaviors can include spinning, hand flapping, and rocking. These are behaviors that often get an odd look in public, so fidget toys are an excellent way to stim without it being too obvious.
Many fidget toys also make noise. The sounds can be calming to those who stim. Even someone without autism understands the satisfaction of popping bubble wrap.
People without autism, especially those with ADHD and chronic anxiety, also enjoy these toys as a calming mechanism. While they do make noise, they tend to be less intrusive than pen clicking or similar behaviors. They can help people with impulse control issues, such as skin picking, focus on something else.
Neurotypical adults and kids alike have also started enjoying these fidget devices as a means to cope with everyday stressors at school and work.
Why Schools have Banned it
There is a considerable controversy over some schools banning fidget toys now that they have become so popular. Many of these districts argue that fidget toys distract and make too much noise in class, particular the spinners and the clicking options on the cube. There is also a safety argument that the boomerang ones can become airborne and hurt people.
Detractors argue that the fidget toys can help students stay focused rather than distract. While some kids might use them as a toy to show off, many children would find great benefit from using a fidget cube in class to help concentrate. Hopefully, there will be more of a push for quiet fidget toys.
We’ve found that these toys are perfect for our son with autism. They help relax him, especially when we’re traveling. These devices are typically small and portable, ideal for taking on a plane or long bus ride. We’ve also found these tools can help with hand-eye coordination.
Our only caution is that these devices, especially the noisy options, may annoy fellow passengers. I like the fidget cube as it does have several quiet options and fits comfortably into one’s hand.
Do your kids use any fidget toys? How have they helped your family?