Remember fidget spinners — those trinkets with the ball bearings that went viral circa 2017? Well, thanks to TikTok, fidget toys of all sorts are making a comeback now.
Generally speaking, fidget toys are a unique knickknack often used to help kids with ADHD focus. The idea is that fiddling around with something like Silly Putty or a stress ball can help a child focus on the task at hand. While the toys were initially targeted at this niche demographic, the toys have found a much larger audience today. On TikTok alone, videos with the hashtag “#Fidgettoys” have over 2.7 billion views, with some of most popular accounts exceeding 1.7 million followers.
Fidget toy content is remarkably simple and straightforward. One TikTok with the caption, “My favorite stress balls!” for example has over 1.9 million views despite only showing someone squeezing different kinds of fidget toys. While some videos switch up the formula a bit, like teaching viewers how to make a DIY fidgets, the majority of videos assess the toys.
While opinions vary, generally what people look for in a fidget toy is something tactile. For example, a good “push pop bubble” will click and and snap when you use it. TikToks featuring fidget toys will often have similar qualities to ASMR videos, which produce sensations that please the viewer.
Some fidget content creators provide responsive feeds that create a back and forth between them and the viewer. The account below, for example, has over 299,000 followers and all it does is is take requests to interact with toys. Videos with the “push pop bubble,” a rubber trinket that recreates the sensation of plastic bubble wrap, usually have viewers asking the account to press the springy orbs in specific ways. When a comment asks something like, “Can you do 2 by 2,” the uploader will dutifully oblige, depressing the bubbles two at a time.
I initially didn’t have any interest in fidget toys, but the TikTok algorithm kept recommending me video after video, so they lingered in the back of my mind. After months of randomly seeing these videos, I finally bit the bullet and ordered some. And let me tell you, I love them.
After perusing the options, I bought a Nee Doh what’s basically a giant stress ball that you knead instead of squeeze, some stretchy rubber noodles, an infinity cube, and the aforementioned push pop bubble.
I didn’t expect it, but my favorite is the push pop bubble. I never got particular enjoyment out of popping packaging wrap as a kid, but the soft toy is easy to fiddle. I used to scroll on Twitter while watching TV, but now I play with whatever fidget toy is closest. Since I’m stuck inside all the time, it’s nice to have something to pick and hold in my hands that’s not my phone.