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The Fun and Fad of Fidget Spinners

Rochel Burstyn

Kids and adults around the world are enchanted by fidget spinners. Where do they come from? And how do fads spread so quickly from classroom to classroom, from school to school, across countries and continents?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

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What goes flick and round and round and round and does nothing more than that, but has the rapt attention of billions of folks worldwide?! It makes no sense, it takes no skill, but kids — and adults — around the world are enchanted by fidget spinners. Where do they come from? Why were they invented? And how do fads spread so quickly from classroom to classroom, from school to school, across countries and continents?

The Spinner is Born

I bet the first time you heard of fidget spinners was sometime this year (or in 2016, if you’re extremely with it) but believe it or not, the fidget spinner is over 20 years old. Yes, you read that right; the fidget spinner was invented in 1993. According to one version, it all began when Florida inventor Catherine Hettinger tried to think of a toy that would keep unruly kids busy and out of trouble; she was sure lots of parents would like that.


At the time, Hettinger was suffering from a disorder that causes muscle weakness, but wanted to find ways to play with her seven-year-old daughter, Sara. She started throwing things together and taping things together and soon came up with the world’s first version of the fidget spinner. Hettinger manufactured them in her house, sold them at art fairs around the state, and found that people really liked them.

The kicker is that Catherine had a meeting with the heads of the Hasbro toy company to see if they’d be interested in marketing it, but they thought no one would be interested in playing with a little spinner… so after eight years, in 2005, she let her patent expire. That means any company can now make the fidget spinners because Hettinger doesn’t own the copyright anymore… which means she doesn’t earn a single penny from her invention.

Spinner Up Close

The secret behind the fidget spinner is tiny ball bearings sandwiched between two circular channels called the “inner race” and the “outer race.” When these rings come out, the spinner feels different, lighter, and not as fun. The balls make the spinner spin faster and longer. When there are more balls, and smaller balls, it spins longer and faster. But be careful around little kids: these pieces can separate easily, particularly on the cheap ones, and are potential choking hazards… (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 663)

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