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What's in a Toy Craze? Deconstructing the Fidget Spinner

posted on May 18 2017

Everyone has got an opinion as to why fidget spinners have captured the tween imagination. According to the New Yorker, "they are the perfect toy for the Trump Presidency" and right on the scientific trend as studies are finding fidgeting to be a useful activity: increasing circulation in our sedentary culture. But the author Rebecca Mead, who is an astute social commentator, thinks they are emblematic of what's wrong with our society. She goes as far as to say, "it induces solipsism, selfishness, and outright rudeness. It does not, as the Rubik’s Cube does, reward higher-level intellection".

At Little Citizens we see a different perspective. We've seen tweens come in here desperate for toys, however gimmicky that they can touch, feel, handle and deliver lots of sensory. We've noticed similar crazes for stress balls, making your own slime (a super textural experience) and loom bands (talk about nimble fingers).

If ever there was a sign that children need more manual play it is their love of fidget toys. We see these trends as a plea to use those million nerves on our finger tips. Many educators like Rudolf Steiner for example have long persuaded us that manual dexterity leads to mental dexterity.

With the proliferation of screens, I think our sense of touch has been relegated to a cold glass, metal, and plastic feel. Everything polished, everything smooth and little in the way of variance of natural materials.

The sense of touch in children's play has been underestimated and overlooked for some time. When babies are born it is their most developed sense and considering all the nerve endings on our fingertips, scientists say this is the densest area of receptors in the whole body, the inclination to explore and play with our fingers is essential. Moulin Roty does a fantastic job of offering a huge spectrum of texture in their baby toys.

Our hypothesis is we, humans, are starved for kinetic reactions, press, push, move and see an effect has been out of fashion for some time now. Here’s hoping for more manual toys and textural technology and products to experience and make our senses come alive. 

It has to be said we love witnessing a new toy craze. We get as excited as the kids. It's super fun to watch the way it ripples through our community of customers, and families around the world even. A craze however maddening becomes a way to share in conversation and play. A great icebreaker for proper human bonding!

It’s cool that this toy started off as a meditative relaxing toy to help children with autism or people who fidget. Actually the inventor Catherine Hettinger who is from Florida, came up with it while she was suffering from myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder that causes muscle weakness. She was caring for her daughter and wanted to play with her so badly but couldn't move with ease, so she started making toys with her hands until they came up with a spinner. Then they took turns playing with it.

Ms Hettinger took a patent out and nearly sold it to Hasbro. Sadly the deal fell through and she couldn't afford to renew her patent. So this craze is sadly not making her rich. But she has a glorious outlook, she says she is happy that something she invented is being enjoyed by so many people. She hopes to put together her original toy design on Kickstarter, so watch this space. We will definitely let you know. 

The act of fidgeting well it can be mesmerising and meditative and reminds us of the worry beads or komboloi’s traditionally played with in Greek or Cypriot cultures. And we all know that repetitive motion is often zen inducing, like this Magic Sand kit which we love for that reason. Sand that moves and is magically dry when taken out of the water. 

And this my friends is our ode to the sense of touch. Put your attention on your finger tips, I think you'll be surprised to notice how much you pick up. 

You can order your Fidget Spinner here

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