What Are Fidget Spinners and Where Did They Come From?

Wholesale Promotional Fidget Spinners
Scott Kalapos on Jun 2, 2017


Promotional fidget spinner - wholesale fidget spinners with corporate logoWhat are fidget spinners? It has to be one of the most commonly asked questions of 2017. They're well known within the business promotional product industry, but we're hardly the only ones who are aware of them. Schools, offices, and homes around the world are suddenly flooded with them and it seems to have happened almost overnight. In this article, we'll address the question of what promotional fidget spinners are, their possible benefits, alleged detrimental qualities, origins, and how they've become so popular.

Fidget spinners, simply stated, are stress relief toys. They are unique among other stress toys both in their design and in their function. Nearly all of them are two or three pronged and are made of either plastic, wood, or metal. The one common quality they all share is the ball bearing included directly beneath their centers. It's the ball bearing that really puts the spin into a fidget spinner. When you tap or twirl the prongs, the ball bearing causes the body of the fidget toy to spin. Exactly how long it will spin will vary based on technique and design.

How do you use a fidget spinner?

The M.O. of most users is to begin by picking up their fidget spinner and holding it in one hand. Then, the operator will grip the central area of the fidget spinner between their thumb and middle finger. Once this has been achieved, all that needs to happen is a flick of the index or ring finger and the fidget spinner will twirl to your heart's content - or at least to the extent that the spin time of a custom designed fidget spinner has been built for. 

Here's a video highlighting basic use techniques:



What are the benefits of fidget spinners?


Okay, so you now know what fidget spinners are and how to use them. We've covered the what and the how, so now we'll get into the why. Though they are still in their infancy, many studies are currently being conducted in regard to the possible effects that fidget spinners might have on the people, particularly the children, who use them.  Some (but not all) medical, psychological, and educational experts are giving them rave reviews for a variety of reasons.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine has gone on record as stating that fidgeting is good for your overall health5.  Consequently, similar claims are being made about the use of fidget toys. More specifically, fidget spinners are great for engaging children in using fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Students who have deficits in these areas will benefit from the additional practice they get while using fidget spinners. There is also some preliminary evidence that fidget spinners are capable of boosting memory, focus, and creativity5.  However, it's important to state that many of the suggested benefits of fidget toys are yet to be officially confirmed.

                Fidget Spinners and ADHD, Autism, and Anxiety

Many children who struggle with ADHD and anxiety disorders have a good deal of pent up energy that eventually needs to be released. Fidget spinners are proving to be a calming and constructive outlet for this energy. They also provide a pleasing sensory experience1 to children with autism, many of whom have a need to indulge in self-stimulatory behavior. Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming, is a stabilizing coping mechanism often employed by people with autism during periods of high anxiety and/or sensory overload. When not properly understood, stimming can sometimes lead to teasing behavior on the part of the children who witness it. Some psychologists testify that seeing other students using fidget spinners and therefore engaging to stimulatory behavior similar to their own, autistic children develop more positive feelings of belonging and being like "all the other kids."

Light-up LED fidget spinners - A great trade show giveaway itemThough most see the aforementioned feelings of belonging that fidget spinners can generate for children with autism as largely positive, there are some people who disagree.  While they don't have any issues with fidget spinners in and of themselves, some activists in the autism community feel that this encouraged feeling of sameness is actually worsening discrimination against people with autism.

While some of the virtues of fidget spinners are presently up for debate, there are others that are undeniable. Fidget spinners are doing their part to pry both children and adults from their computer/phone screens, even if for brief periods of time. They're also helping to renew the lost art of conversation. Many fidget spinner owners have reported both friends and complete strangers striking up conversations with them as these stress relief toys have a way of piquing the interest of people who aren't familiar with them.  In other cases, conversations begin and new friendships formed when one fidget spinner devotee spies another in action.


Are there any disadvantages to having fidget spinners in schools?

While reviews of fidget spinners are generally very positive, some people doubt their virtues and feel they can be a detriment, especially in the classroom. Some teachers report that fidget spinner use among students is hurting rather than helping concentration and focus. Other teachers are worried about the consequences that come along with the abuse of fidget spinners. When they are twirled a bit too enthusiastically and without a strong grip, they have the potential to turn into desk-launched projectiles. Some students have been reported to bang spinner toys against their desks in a damaging manner. More mischievous students sometimes engage in the act of hurling their fidget toys at other students, which is obviously problematic.

Some schools that have become concerned with rampant fidget spinner use have banned them entirely. Despite this, most teachers manage to keep the presence of fidget spinners in the classroom a positive thing. Some schedule much-anticipated fidget spinner breaks for their students and others are able to implement disciplinary methods that keep most potential problems from ever arising. They reward appropriate and constructive fidget spinner use and in instances of abuse, these teachers are quick to confiscate them.

Who invented fidget spinners and how did they become so popular?

This is a classic simple question/complicated answer scenario. Depending on which source is consulted and how broad one's definition of fidget toys is, multiple people may be considered to be the genius behind these hot promotional items. There are two people who are most frequently credited as being the lead fidget spinner pioneer. One is a chemical engineer named Catherine Hettinger and the other is a former DJ and IT worker from Washington state by the name of Scott McCoskery.

Custom shaped fidget spinners - New business promotional item

                                Catherine Hettinger's story

It is often reported that Catherine Hettinger was inspired to invent the fidget spinner in 1993 after seeing children throwing rocks at police officers in Israel. Allegedly, her reaction was to try to find a peaceful outlet for children's energy3. Aside from the 1993 part, Hettinger denies this story. For that matter, she for the most part denies being the inventor of fidget spinners at all.

Catherine did indeed conceive a unique invention in 1993, but under far different circumstances from what has been reported. At the time, she was suffering from an autoimmune disorder that caused her to experience extreme fatigue and muscle weakness. It was a pretty inopportune time for this to happen, as she had had a toddler daughter on hand. The new mother was temporarily sidelined from actively playing with her daughter and the little girl was becoming antsy. Desperate to find a way to provide some entertainment, Hettinger says she, "started throwing things together with newspaper and tape3". 

One of the entertainment amalgamations created during this time was actually quite ingenious. It wasn't exactly a fidget spinner, but it was a toy that was a big hit with her daughter and with all of the other children who were introduced to it. She went on to apply for a patent for her invention, which expired in 2005. While she appreciates the recognition, Catherine doesn't expect to receive any financial benefits from the fidget spinner craze,  as by her own admission, her invention and the fidget spinner are far from being twins. Her creation was a large plastic item one could twirl by inserting their finger into a centrally-located compartment. It's appearance could be described as being a cross between a sombrero and a space ship. Though the appearance was less than slick, it was still an ingenious invention that brought a lot of joy to many children and some much needed peace to many parents.

                                Scott McCoskery and the Torqbar

As mentioned earlier, the other person credited with inventing the fidget spinner is Scott McCoskery. Hailing from the Seattle suburb of Suquamish, Washington, McCoskery was in the radio and information technology game before inventing what became known as the Torqbar. Prone to fidgeting himself, McCoskery felt compelled to find a more obscure way to release energy during IT meetings and conference calls5, as constant pen clicking wasn't quite doing it. In 2014, his efforts to create a quieter device to lessen the tedium of work meetings, he eventually created his first Torqbar. The Torqbar, in reality, was the first true fidget spinner.

After encouragement from his friends and colleagues, McCoskery decided to put the Torqbar out on the market to see how it would sell. In 2015, he sold his first Torqbar online for $3005 and before long, he had a very profitable new business venture. Along with friend and business partner Paul de Herrera, McCoskery applied for a patent on the Torqbar in 2016. Today, the two men work out of a (very large) in-home garage together with an assembly crew, churning out as many Torqbars each day as possible to keep up with demand.

Here's a video of a Torqbar made by Scott McCoskery himself:

The Torqbar varies from the fidget spinners most of us are familiar with in that they are all constructed of high-grade metal and the price of a single unit ranges from $139-$8005. Enterprising individuals who saw the Torqbar began creating much more affordable versions that could be purchased for a much smaller amount of money. A combination of word-of-mouth, playground demonstrations by schoolchildren, social media sharing, and a series of impressive YouTube videos came together to create fidget spinner fever on a global level. In December of 2016, Forbes magazine declared fidget spinners to be the "Must-Have Office Toy of 2017" and the "iPhone of desk toys5", providing these fun little items with their official big break.

Are there different types of fidget spinners?

The answer to this question is a resounding "Yes". Today, there are a wide variety of fidget spinners out on the market and wholesale fidget spinners are proving to be very popular among schools and businesses. As firm believers in the benefits of fidget spinners, we proudly offer a wide variety of them to our customers. In addition to basic business logo fidget spinners, we also carry light-up fidget spinners, custom shaped models, custom action models such as our Turbo Boost Action, and fidget spinners with ball bearings up and down their arms, just to name a few. All of these fidget spinners are fully customizable with your company logo. They're also a great vehicle for building corporate awareness while providing a lot of fun and stimulation for users of all ages.

We'll end our discussion with a YouTube video showing five easy fidget spinner tricks for beginners. What's your take on fidget spinners? Do you have any tricks or stories you'd like to share with us? Do you have any additional questions about these hit new toys? Whatever is on your mind, feel free to share it with us in the comment section below. We value your opinions and can't wait to hear them!

Works Cited

1. Corrigan, John
Fidget Spinners Soar in Promo Popularity
ASICentral.com May 25, 2017

2. Pappas, Stephanie
Fidget Spinners, What They Are, How They Work, and Why the Controversy/em>
LiveScience.com May 19, 2017

3. "Fidget Spinner(2017, April 4)
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidget_spinner

4. Pisani, Joseph
Fidget Spinners: How They Went from Being a Toy to Help Autistic Kids to Being a National Phenomenon
USAToday.com May 16, 2017

5. "What are the Benefits of Fidget Spinner? (2017, April 14)
Retrieved from https://gadgetworld.ae/blogs/blog/spinner-benefits

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