When one thinks of fidget toys, your mind may wander to the fidget spinner fiasco of 2017, where schools were on a rampage to ban each and every fidget spinner found on school property. On the contrary, in recent years, fidget toys have become a product marketed to help people who live with anxiety. With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, more people have experienced heightened symptoms of anxiety. According to research conducted by the World Health Organization, the prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the coronavirus epidemic. This doesn’t even consider the effects of the coronavirus on an individual’s stress from this previous year and this year.
With this in mind, more people have had an increasing interest in finding ways to help with their symptoms of stress, cueing the ever-growing popularity of fidget toys. While some people may think they’re an overrated fad, more and more people are buying them. Fidget toys have been around for years- and arguably longer than that- and don’t deserve the bad rap they sometimes get. If you’re skeptical about how a product that, at one point, sent school employees into a panic helps alleviate your stress symptoms, keep reading below.
If you’ve been following social media, you might be thinking that fidget toys came out of nowhere. Still, we can actually see their emergence into society with the invention of Kombolai, or worry beads, from Greece, or even Baoding balls, which were invented during the Ming Dynasty in China. Worry beads were traditionally used as prayer beads for monks in Ancient Greece and, over the years, have been used as a form of stress relief. Baoding balls, an inspiration for modern-day stress balls, are two small balls that the user rolls in one hand, switching the position of each ball as they are moved. They are often referred to as worry balls, as they are used for relaxation and stress reduction. Baoding balls are also often used in meditative practices as a way to relieve stress.
So while we can see that the concept of fidget toys isn’t new, its popularity hit the mainstream media in the late 2010s, causing many to wonder what exactly are fidget toys?
A fidget toy is a small device designed for users to shift their focus onto the toy itself, serving as a distraction from thoughts or allowing the user to focus on a specific task. Everyone, at some point in their life, fidgets. Whether it’s from nervousness, being uncomfortable, or having an anxiety disorder, you have probably caught yourself doing it a time or two. Many people fidget with things either out of a habit or as a coping mechanism. For example, someone may twirl their hair or a pencil, tap their foot, or tuck their hair continuously behind their ear as a nervous tick. For those who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the repetition of an act can provide comfort. Fidgeting for an individual can give relief in stressful situations. The concept of the fidget toy is that the movement of the toy will allow you to focus your energy away from your stressor and calm you down.
Fidget toys serve as an outlet for anxious energy. Whenever you’re feeling overstimulated in an environment, or just feeling anxious, by twiddling with the toy, you are able to ground yourself. The repetitive movement of the toy is designed to have a calming effect on the user. Studies on the impact of fidget toys on kids with ADHD show that intentional twiddling can strengthen a child’s attention span and improve their academic performance. Although studies on their effectiveness are still in the early days, if you are open to alternative ways to cope with your stress, fidget toys might be a good option for you.
As always, it’s important to realize that no amount of toys or devices will take place from getting professional help if your anxiety is persistent. Fidget toys are not a fix-all and may not work as a coping mechanism for everyone. These are supposed to serve as a tool to assist and help with your stress. Make sure you are taking the time to research each toy you are interested in and making your best judgment. And while it should go without saying, knowing the past history with fidget toys, make sure that you are using them for their intended purposes.
Compared to ten years ago, the amount of fidget toys that are on the market is pretty remarkable. Nowadays, you don’t just have one type of fidget toy; you also have about five million of the same one. I promise you that if you’ve thought about it, a hundred different companies have made it. While this may be overwhelming to some, it is also a great way to try a ton of different toys that might help your anxiety. Some common types include fidget spinners, anxiety rings, stress balls, pop-its, and many others. There are fidget toys for sensory issues, hair picking, and skin picking; you name it, the market has it. Below are some trendy fidget toys that you might want to look into.
Anxiety jewelry has become more popular through social media sites like Tiktok and Instagram over the last couple of years. Even if you haven’t bought one, you may have seen an ad or two explaining the benefits of owning some. They offer a more discreet, neutral way to fidget without having the overt appearance of a fidget toy. Ranging from rings to necklaces, there is a multitude of options out there.
1. Anxiety Rings
Anxiety rings can be a good choice if you are someone who focuses their fidgeting with their fingers or if you’re someone who anxiously picks at their fingernails or the skin on your fingers. They come in plenty of different styles and colors designed to “center” you when you have anxious thoughts. Seemingly an overnight sensation, anxiety rings have become one of the most popular fidget toys to come out of the pandemic. Here is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for an in-depth article about what anxiety rings might be a good fit for you.
2. Anxiety Necklaces
There are many options when it comes to stress-relieving necklaces. There are ones that light up, ones that spin, or even ones that you can move around with your fingers. If you’re someone that doesn’t like wearing rings or tends to lose jewelry, necklaces might be the better option to pick when looking for a fidget toy.
Here are a few different varieties of necklaces that you might be interested in trying out.
If you’re looking for a ring that has the ability to spin and looks aesthetically pleasing, this crystal sunflower ring offers a feminine design that has a boho style. It’s dainty and delicate, and if you don’t want anyone to know you’ve bought a sensory device for your mental health, this one easily looks like any other regular piece of jewelry.
A good option for kids, or even adults, these types of necklaces are designed for individuals who often chew on their sleeves or have other oral fixations, acting as an anxiety relief aid. Not only do they serve as a coping mechanism, but they also divert the individual from chewing on non-edible objects that can potentially be harmful. This specific one looks like a cookie, but these sensory chew necklaces can come in the form of donuts or even leaves.
Customizable Mini Calming Crystal Spinner Pendant
These calming crystal pendants that are customizable, and you can choose which crystal of your preference. Crystals have been said to contain healing properties, and if you’re someone who has a more metaphysical side, it may be a good idea to check this one out. For this anxiety necklace, you have the option of either spinning the crystal or rubbing it between your fingers.
If necklaces or rings aren’t for you, anxiety bracelets are another great option to look for when looking for anxiety jewelry. They can range from bangles to bands. They can have spinners or pop it, and so much more.
Opal Spinning Bangle
With the option of being a bracelet, ring, or necklace, the versatility of this opal spinner bracelet is perfect for those looking for a matching jewelry set. Many buyers’ frustrations with fidget toys are the childish looks many may have to them. This option gives you the ability to wear it when you’re all dressed up or even if you’re just lounging around in your pajamas.
Single Band Anxiety Fidgeting Snap Bracelet
It is said to be an instrument utilized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The purpose of this snap bracelet is for the user to snap the band whenever they are anxious to help re-focus anxious thoughts. It comes in a variety of different colors and lengths to accommodate different-sized wrists. If you’re looking for simplicity and a product to get the job done, the quality of this bracelet will let you snap back to focus more than once.
With a more masculine design, this bracelet is designed not only as a stress relief bracelet but also for individuals who may have ADHD, autism, or sensory processing disorders. The hex nuts are texturized and have the ability to spin. If you don’t like sliding bracelets onto your wrist, this one has a buckle mechanism, so you can easily snap it on or off without annoyance.
Before there were fidget spinners, there were stress balls. The first commercial stress ball was created in the late 1980s by Alex Craswell. If you’re an 80’s baby, you may remember Panic Pete, one of the popular stress toys that came out during this time. Its squishy belly would cause its eyes, ears, and nose to pop out whenever it was pressed. This classic fidget toy has become an inspiration for future fidget toys and beyond.
Stress balls often called fidget balls, have long been a product created to help alleviate stress and anxiety. They are often considered a therapeutic tool that helps diffuse stress by squeezing or rolling them in your hand. Having anxiety can leave you with a lot of stressful energy, and having a physical release can let some of that stressful energy out. Because of their focus on stress, hence the name, you may not have known that there are other added benefits to stress balls than just helping with your stress symptoms. For example, studies have shown that stress balls can improve your circulation. Squeezing these toys sends more oxygen to your heart and speeds it up; the increased speed of your heart allows blood to circulate better throughout your body. The benefits of having good circulation lower your risk of having high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
Other added benefits of stress balls are:
If you’re looking for a multi-beneficial sensory aid, below you’ll find an assortment of stress balls that are currently on the market.
Brownmed IMAK Ergo Stress Ball
This stress ball is made from a soft cotton material and is excellent for isometric exercise, and is filled with ergo beads that allow for a gentle massage. Isometric exercise releases tension from particular parts of your body and also offers joint stability.
You may have seen the new trend of handmade plush stuffed animals made of yarn on social media, and they have now crossed over to the real sensory toys. These handmade plush stress balls are not only adorable and soft but also have the option to come in scented lavender; a popular essential oil used to help with soothing stress.
Maybe you’re not into traditional stress balls. If so, this may be a great option for those of you looking for a more unique and creepy way to destress. With a fun and modern twist on stress balls, this lime-shaped sensory toy not only allows you to squish or roll it, but the eye has the ability to fidget. Even more impressive, you can order extra eyes and have a choice of colors, including brown, green, and blue. This company also has another style that mimics the look of flesh for all you horror fans out there.
Fidget spinners took the world by storm when they became popularized in the late 2010s. While they were initially marketed toward kids with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), over the years, they have been more commonly designed and marketed toward individuals who suffer from persistent anxious thoughts. Fidget spinners have been said to help calm nerves and focus the attention of children. If you’re someone who doesn’t find that stress balls help you, spinner devices like the ones below may be an excellent alternative for you.
Are you looking for a sleek traditional-looking spinner device? This iridescent turbine-inspired toy spinner comes in eight different styles and has a choice between a hybrid ceramic or steel center bearing. Its heavy weight and design are fully optimized for you to have the perfect spin.
This five-pack of toy spinners is a good choice if you’re looking for the best value. Coming in a range of five colors, its easy-to-use quality allows you to spin with just one hand. Another version of this sensory toy has pops, giving you the ability to pop them and spin as well. If you’re unsure about sensory toys, these products are a good way to get introduced to them without spending a ton of money.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you always wanted to hold a golden orb in your palm? A sensory toy designed after the famous wizardry game of quidditch, this golden orb spinner is self-lubricating. This allows for optimal spinning without the risk of it getting stuck or needing another product to keep it lubricated. It has a two-minute spinning time that increases to four after a few days of spinning. Not only that, but it states that it is designed for more than 300,000 spins, allowing it to be used plenty of times.
A lover of retro games? This sensory toy mimics a retro game controller and comes in ten colors. Its multi-function properties allow you to not only spin it but flip, click, and roll it as well. Better than that, when you buy one, a bonus sensory ring is included with your purchase. This all-in-one toy might be a good option if you are looking for a fidget toy with more than one use.
If you thought that was the end to the endless array of sensory toys, think again. While the above toys may be the most common, you’d be surprised by how creative companies can get when it comes to sensory toys. If none of the options sound or look appealing to you, you might like some of these more unique fidget options currently on the market.
Have you ever heard of fidget cubes? If not, this handheld cube has different clicking options with rounded edges allowing you to have the best grip possible. This brand has a ton of different styles and colors for you to choose from, and the best part is? It comes with a case so you can take it with you wherever you go.
Squeeze Craft Magnetic Frudge Putty with Magnet
While it might not be the most discreet, this sensory toy will be sure to keep you occupied with its four different color options. This magnetic stretch putty allows you to stretch, tear, and pull freely while being able to be reassembled. It’s perfect for those who like a slimy, smooth texture, and it even has the ability to bounce.
EocuSun 3Pcs Puchi Puti Mugen Edamame Keychain
Are you someone who fiddles with your keys when you’re nervous? This sensory keychain has extrusion beans in the form of edamame. Cute and affordable, for around $10, you can continuously pop the beans out and pop them back in for as long as your heart desires. It comes in a three-piece, so if you wanted, you could gift it to a friend or family member who may also be looking for a stress-relieving tool.
Fidget toys have been around way longer than you’ve probably thought and if you’re up for it, give them a try. From Baoding balls to Panic Pete, devices to help with stress and anxiety are a lot older than the spinner disaster of 2017. While there are a lot more options out there than there were in the Ming Dynasty or 1988, the principles have stayed the same.
The market is constantly evolving, and maybe by the time you’re reading this article, there is already a new fidget toy out there to look into. There are some key things to remember when picking out a new sensory toy for your anxiety: Don’t over-rely on them. If you’re reading this after researching ways to help your stress know that there are a ton more research-based articles out there on the benefits of therapy for anxiety than there are fidget toys. Not every fidget toy will work for everyone, and maybe you won’t find a fidget toy that works for you. That’s okay; there are plenty of other ways to cope with your anxiousness than buying a toy.