The fidget spinner and fidget cube have become massively popular stress-relieving tools, as well as obsessively sought-after toys for children, particularly the fidget spinner. Although children seem to be the largest market for fidget spinners, they were initially designed to soothe mental unrest, as were fidget cubes.
A Loud Mind – The Trouble with not being able to Sit Still
Many of us find it hard to relax. Stress, anxiety, or general restlessness dominates much of our day-to-day existence, and we find it hard to find an outlet for our tension. Many of us project our stress in negative ways, lashing out randomly, or turnning to substances such as cigarettes or alcohol to calm us down. Some of us, however, find more positive and peaceful ways to deal with our stress such as exercise, yoga, peaceful music, art etc. However, many of us don’t have much time for such grand designs. Too many people today barely have time to even sit down and eat, let alone take a stroll through a forest, or take a swim at the beach. Fidget toys or stress toys find themselves in high demand with highly-strung office workers. These generally handheld contraptions come in all shapes and sizes, but for the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on both the fidget spinner and fidget cube.
Some people suffer from even more challenging mental conditions, such as ADHD or autism. People with conditions such as these will find it even harder to stay collected, often exhibiting antisocial and even harmful behavior. Autistic people require intensive care and therapy for their conditions in general, but in many cases, individuals are found to be insatiably fidgety. For this purpose, many physical-based activities have been considered, including the creation of autism toys.
Many have advocated the use of spinning toys such as fidget spinners, as well as other fidget toys such as the fidget cube to help curb the fidgety restlessness of autistic children, and help them to control their excitable tension. These tools have been found to successfully curb much of autistic children’s acting out, redirecting their often potentially disruptive energy to a still and contained position. There are many other excellent autism toys available, and it is a field definitely worth reading up on. But, for now, let’s find out a bit more about fidget toys, starting with hand spinners.
The Fidget Spinner – A History in Hand Spinners
You may have been bombarded by fidget spinner adverts, or heard your friends talking about them, but you still do not know what they are exactly. Some people can’t wrap their heads around how something so simple could be such a worldwide sensation. While there have been many different versions of the handspinner throughout the years, the current fidget spinner generally comes as a central bearing with two or three propeller-like blades spinning around the center. The more sophisticated models come with several blades, but the gist of the design remains the same. That’s all it is, just a spinner. While many people cannot seem to understand why anyone would keep this in their hands day after day, it has, in fact, become an essential tool for countless people to ensure their peace of mind. Some people have stopped chewing their nails and others have quit cigarettes.
While the fidget spinner might find itself being massively popular today in 2017, many people don’t realize that the initial idea came out back in 1990. A chemical engineer named Catherine Hettinger has been credited as the inventor. After hearing about young boys lobbing rocks at policemen in Israel, she decided that her idea for a spinning toy could potentially be an excellent tool for redirecting negative energies, something that could soothe children’s pent-up energy and “promote peace”.
The actual origins of her lucrative hand spinner are actually far more personal. Hettinger suffered from an autoimmune disorder known as myasthenia gravis, which causes muscle weakness. As she was unable to play with her daughter due to her muscular disorder, she began “throwing things together with newspaper and tape”, as an attempt to keep the young girl occupied. The toy soon took off, gaining considerable popularity in her hometown in Florida. She started a small-scale manufacturing line and began selling her hand spinners in local art fairs. Hettinger finally decided that she wanted to go big with her invention, and that many children across the world could benefit greatly from it.
In 1997, Hettinger put forward a patent to Hasbro for a one-piece, rounded spinner formed from soft plastic, supported by a dome on which one would place their fingers. Unfortunately, Hasbro had no interest in pursuing collaboration with Hettinger, after the toy was found to be valueless after market-testing reports came back with less than favorable results.
Nowadays, the fidget spinner has suddenly become a universal phenomenon, and Hettinger isn’t getting anything for what she claims was her brainchild. There is currently a media dispute regarding the legitimacy of her claims, some news outlets lamenting her wrongful shunning, others believing that she did not invent the actual toy, merely a similarly designed attempt.
Hettinger tried her best to hang on to the patent, but due to financial limitations, had to let it go in 2005. She is now struggling financially, and has had to cut many of the basic comforts and services she once had from her lifestyle. Still, Hettinger does not claim to feel bitter, rather, she is happy that her invention has reached such a level of proliferation, and is happy that it is helping children around the world.
Fidget spinners come in basic, largely plastic forms, costing just a few dollars. The more colorful, creative spinners made from more expensive materials like metal can go for hundreds of dollars. The little gadgets can now be seen everywhere, from school playgrounds to highbrow offices. They have become so fervently in demand, that as of May 2, hand spinners have filled out every position in Amazon’s Top 20 Best Sellers list. Suffice to say; the world is spinning. A lot of people have taken strongly against the spinner, however, and not everyone is convinced regarding their proposed benefits.
Spinning out of Control – A Controversial Toy
Despite Hettinger’s enthusiasm, these small spinner toys have caused an amount of irritation with adults, particularly teachers and principals of schools. The hand spinner, in all its forms, has been banned from many schools around the world. Some adults claim that this spinning toy is not a valuable asset in controlling youthful nerves, but rather a distraction that further exacerbates restlessness. A clinical psychologist working at the University of Central Florida believes that the hand spinners are more of a distraction for people with ADHD, bringing the opposite results of the intended effect.
Other than causing endless chagrin to teachers and parents, the spinner frenzy has brought even more alarming issues to the fore. Psychiatrists are now becoming far more concerned about the lapse in attention spans in modern children, the obsession with hand spinners strengthening curiosity as to whether kids are finding it harder to concentrate as the years go by.
Testimonies – The Benefits of Spinning
Regardless of what some people have to say about the fidget spinner, countless people across the world echo opinions regarding the help it has brought the more nervous among us. There are endless testimonies available supporting what fidget toys like the handspinner aim to deliver, and I’m sure most people know at least someone that loves their handspinner. From office workers, to youngsters, to creatives, hand spinners are reducing stress levels and containing restlessness.
Moving on to youths with special needs, there is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of introducing autism toys into therapy with autistic children. Professionals like occupational therapists often introduce stimulating sensory toys into their sessions, the hand spinner becoming one of the latest additions to the toy box for many practitioners.
As for children suffering from ADHD, a 2015 Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology entry written by Rapport et al. investigated the benefits of movement in therapy. They found that children that engaged in ‘gross motor activity’ – that being the lively moving and shaking of the abdomen and limbs – were getting better results than those involved with exercises working on working memory.
Hand spinners emulate the motion and freedom we all desire. They are a microcosm of the human desire to run free, to play, and to fly. Many of us find ourselves cooped up in offices or lecture halls on a daily basis, when we would much rather be running around outside. Children with ADHD or autism have an exacerbated need to jump around, twiddle with their surroundings or engage in exciting activities that can often disturb those around them. Hand spinners act as a buffer for this intense restlessness, allowing them to channel their massive energies into something as tiny and seemingly insignificant as a handspinner.
Regardless of opinions, and despite the reputable amount of academic research surrounding stress toys and autism toys, there is no research on the individual benefits of fidget spinners. Relevant experimentation and research will probably be conducted soon, considering their monumental presence in today’s world. Still, many detractors from the benefits of hand spinners encourage people to rather ride a bike or do some exercise. Rapport said that only more rigorous forms of exercise create the believed attention-boosting changes in the prefrontal and frontal brain areas. The minimal movement needed to operate a hand spinner does not bring any change to the brain, he believes.
Whether you view the little handspinner as a blessing or a curse, you cannot deny that people are enjoying them tremendously and finding at least some form of stress-relief, along with the other, different-shaped fidget toys, such as the fidget cube.
Don’t be a Square, Get yourself a Fidget Cube
Although there are countless fidget toys, something a bit more complex than your average fidget spinner is the fidget cube. This sweet little shape packs in all of your clicking, flipping, rolling, rubbing, spinning, and gliding desires into one cool, compact device.
The fidget cube was developed by the McLachlan brothers, Matthew and Mark, also known for inventing the Apple Watch accessory Duet. The brothers, who find themselves in constant need of fidgety release, developed the device for other like-minded people. Their main focus with the fidget cube was to challenge the stigma surrounding fidgeting, something that more still-minded people label as an unprofessional, and even anti-intellectual behavior. ‘This behavior isn't one that should continue to be stigmatized and mocked as unbecoming or inappropriate.’ It is one of the passionate lines found on their Kickstarter page.
The Genius Brothers’ Kickstarter
Many of the world’s finest inventors often have an excellent idea, but lack the funds needed to bring imagination to life. Luckily, there is Kickstarter, a website designed to bring the most lucrative and sensational of concepts the funding and initiative needed. Sometimes, a project receives a mass following, and more importantly, enough donations needed to not just bring the project to life, but bring it to the level its creators fantasized about.
This was the case with the McLachlan brothers, who received overwhelming public support. Over 150,000 people pledged almost $6,500,000, allowing one of the most successful stress toys ever conceived to become an international staple for those that just can’t keep their hands still. The Fidget Cube’s phenomenal support earned its spot among the most successful Kickstarter projects, becoming the tenth-highest funded Kickstarter missions ever.
What on Earth is a Fidget Cube?
Weighing 4.1 ounces and measuring 1.3 inches, the fidget cube comes in eight color schemes: retro, fresh, berry, sunset, aqua, midnight, graphite, and die. It is a cube which has had each of its surfaces transformed into a highly satisfying fidget-center. The McLachlan brothers have combined all of the most satisfying fiddly sensations into one little pocket-sized contraption. Each surface contains either a set of pushed buttons, a pad for rubbing, a disc to spin, a joystick to swish about, a rolling ball, gears to switch between, and an on/off switch emulating a basic light switch. It is truly one of the most diversely appealing and compact stress toys ever invented.
The fidget cube is one of the most perfect stress toys for office use, as it is largely unobtrusive and discreet. Like the fidget spinner, the fidget cube brings the necessary stimulation that long periods of sitting in front of a computer often require. Restlessness is only too common among office workers and other occupations that revolve around endless seated devotion, and the fidget cube acts as an effective buffer against the stresses of the working world. They are also widely used by people with more concerning mental health issues, such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, and autism.
Fidget Cubes as a Tool for Autism Therapy
Within the Autism Spectrum diagnosis criteria, the various idiosyncrasies involving pattern-based fidgeting are known as “stimming”, an often fixed series of acts like tapping, twisting, turning, or jumping motions that many autistic people cannot help acting out.
Stimming acts as a therapeutic rebuttal to the often overwhelming sensory flood of information that autistic people endure in public places. This overloading can be curbed by focusing on a single, repetitive motion or action, resulting in the incessant fidgeting that many autistic people exhibit.
Fidget cubes have become one the most popular types of autism toys due to their diverse range of stimming-friendly attributes. Many autistic children have particular fidgety cravings, and the fidget cube’s range truly helps satisfy many forms and needs.
Another benefit of the fidget cube and fidget spinner alike is helping to normalize and destigmatize fidgeting, something which many autistic people cannot help but fervently entertain. Many people will become negatively curious when spotting someone frantically twiddling with something in public. The introduction of fidget toys into the mainstream attention will, in essence, bring fidgeting to a more accepted level of social norm.
The fidget cube should never be viewed, as the savior of stimming, however, as it often only curbs the simpler stimming needs. Many people with Autism or similar disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum suffer from far more worrying stimming needs, the failure to meet such needs often resulting in a meltdown, often involving rocking back and forth or self-abuse.
Conclusion – Finding Relief in a Nervous World
One should be so lucky to have a calm and composed mind and be free of anxiety and nervousness. For everyone else, stress is an inevitable part of daily life. It will continue to incessantly build and easily result in negative outbursts or burnout if not treated correctly. The fidget spinner and fidget cube can be seen as silly and fun. Interestingly, they could also be the things that are helping people hold themselves together around the world.