The Fidget Phenomenon


Seasoned promotional products professionals will remember the fidget spinner craze of 2017: seemingly overnight, the world became obsessed with those little plastic spinners. Industry message boards filled with requests for help locating suppliers that carried fidget spinners, and discussion ranged from jokes and talk about how silly spinners were to more serious chats on supply chains, inventory updates, and more. For what seemed like months, the industry was a-buzz with fidget spinners.

Just a small handful of the fidget spinner posts that infiltrated the Promotional Products Professionals industry group on Facebook in mid-2017.

There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of articles written about the rise and fall of the fidget spinner empire since 2017. People were perplexed by the runaway popularity of fidget spinners, and kids nationwide were absolutely enthralled by the toys. Claims were made that fidget spinners and other fidget toys had health benefits such as easing stress and increasing focus. Child development experts debated the veracity of those claims, and teachers everywhere were overrun by classrooms filled with the faint whirring noise of dozens of kids fidget spinning away.

Google search trends results for “fidget spinner” from January 2017 through now.

Then, one day, the fidget spinner phenomenon fizzled out. But fidget toys didn’t disappear from the shelves – they just diversified.

A SAGE search for “fidget” brings up all kinds of different fidget toys.

Search in SAGE Total Access for the keyword “fidget” in 2021 and you’ll be met with page after page of different types of fidget toys. The infamous spinner is still there, but now there are also fidget cubes, ropes, buttons, puzzles, slime, putty, and so much more. You’ll also notice there’s a new top dog in the fidget toy game: fidget poppers.

Though fidget poppers have yet to see the same level of crazed searching in our industry, they’re insanely popular with children right now. Walk into any gas station, grocery store, or major retailers like Target or Walmart, and you’ll find a display of brightly colored silicone pop-its. TikTok and YouTube are filled with videos about the poppers: unboxing, reviews, ASMR pop videos – the list goes on.

Some of the top YouTube videos for fidget poppers – look at those view counts!

So, what is it that makes fidget toys so insanely popular?

Well, it’s actually pretty simple. People love to fidget! Even as I’m writing this blog, I’m fiddling with a bag clip from yesterday’s lunch left on my desk. Often, we just use whatever is at hand to fidget and fiddle with: paperclips, a USB drive, bobby pins. But fidget toys give children and adults alike a dedicated outlet for that extra energy, and though there’s not a ton of verified and peer-reviewed evidence out there yet, these toys seem to help us maintain focus and regulate our emotional states.

Just one of the thousands of YouTube videos showing off different fidget poppers.

These new-fangled fidget toys aren’t that new of a phenomenon, either. In 12th century Ming dynasty China, there were Baoding balls: two small balls that could fit in one hand and repeatedly rotate to reduce stress, were used to help soothe the user and put them in a more meditative mindset, according to AtlasObscura’s article titled “Quit Worrying, Fidget Toys Have Been Around Forever.” Similarly, Greek “worry beads” have been around for over 800 years.

The takeaway? Though fidget toys might wane and wax in popularity and the number one fidget-du-jour changes regularly, fidget toys aren’t going anywhere. From stress balls to foam putty and fidget spinners to tangle puzzles, the market for these toys seems to be sticking around.

Read more about industry trends on the #SAGEBlog.

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(Marketing Coordinator)

Caitlin is a Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. When she's not writing, she enjoys baking and spending time with her beagle puppy, Piper.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for this article, Caitlin. Honestly, I never understood the buzz. But we can't deny It was so good for the promo industry. Very interesting the story behind the fidget spinners and Baoding balls.

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