Welcome to the world of fidget spinners. These are fun, mesmerizing little toys that kids of all ages can enjoy for hours. Fidget spinners are easy and relaxing to use, and once you’ve got the hang of them, you can also challenge yourself to learn tricks.
Since becoming a worldwide phenomenon in 2017, fidget spinners have flown off the shelves—but many people don’t know the history and controversy behind fidget spinners and have no idea where their favorite new toy comes from. The story behind their invention might surprise you!
Whether you’re just curious about what fidget spinners are, or you’d like to become a fidget spinner pro, this guide has what you need. I’ll cover all things fidget and show you why a tiny little toy that seems incredibly simple is actually amazing in so many ways.
What is a fidget spinner?
A fidget spinner is a skill toy. If you’re not entirely sure what a “skill toy” is, you are not alone. Think along the lines of Yo-Yos, jacks, or kites. These are all toys, yet they require a degree of skill.
One great thing about fidget spinners and many other skill toys is that you can use them by yourself, so you can while away long hours even if all your friends are busy.
Fidget spinners have a ball bearing in the center. This is where they get most of their balance. The bearing is placed in the middle of the spinner, or “the flat part” as I like to call it. Coming out of the ball bearing center, are three (sometimes two, sometimes more) lobes or “arms.”
The ball in the flat part allows the arms to spin freely. For example, you can hold the flat part of the spinner down on a table, and the arms will still spin on their own.
Fidget spinners are designed so that they move quickly in a circular motion on the axis without much effort. It only takes one light flick of a finger to keep the spinner moving on its own for at least a couple of minutes.
It’s really easy to fall into a fidget spinner trance. They are, for whatever reason, intriguing to watch. You will find that even on your thousandth spin, you’re still entertained. It doesn’t get old.
The typical fidget spinner has three arms but there are some available with six. The six-armed fidget spinner is elusive.
Fidget spinners can be made with any number of materials. The prongs, or lobes, may be made from copper, plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, brass…The options are vast to say the least. The ball bearings are usually made from ceramic or metal.
You’ll probably find that there is a specific make that you prefer.
I recommend trying out as many as you can. I like a heavier fidget spinner, such as one made from copper or stainless steel. The plastic ones are much lighter.
The material you choose will depend on personal preference; there’s no single superior material.
How do fidget spinners work?
To take up fidget spinning, all you have to do is hold the center (“the flat part”) and spin it. Super simple!
But how, exactly? I’ll explain.
I’ve already mentioned the ball bearing in the center, made from materials such as ceramic or stainless steel. Fidget spinners also have small weights on the outside that help them stay balanced and keep spinning.
You may notice these weights if you spin on your fingertip or kneecap (two of my favorite places to spin). The spinner will tilt slightly to one side, and then correct itself.
While some of the fidget spinner’s balance comes from the bearing, the weights provide additional stability.
Every bearing and spinner combo is different. For example, a ceramic bearing paired with a copper spinner is different from a stainless steel bearing combined with a plastic spinner.
This means that every individual fidget spinner will have a different spin time, vibration, and noise. This causes a different sensory feedback for each individual spinner.
How cool is that?!
Not to mention, fidget spinners are available in thousands of different color and pattern combinations. This makes the amount of unique fidget spinner experiences one person can have seem endless.
Who invented the fidget spinner?
Here’s the thing…nobody really knows with 100% certainty. How’s that for a plot twist?
A woman named Catherine Hettinger invented a similar toy back in the day, in the year 1993 to be exact. She created it for her daughter to use and also sold the toys at local crafts fairs.
Hettinger acquired a patent for it in 1997 but allowed it to lapse several years later in 2005 because the patent renewal fee was too steep. She couldn’t find any commercial backing; though she tried to sell the toy to Hasbro, they weren’t interested.
Fast forward about ten years, and fidget spinners really took off! Giant media outlets like the New York Post and the Guardian broke the story, hailing Hettinger as the original inventor of the fidget spinner and lamenting that she wasn’t earning a penny from her invention.
As more and more news stories began to pop up regarding Hettinger and her major misfortune, Bloomberg News turned the tables with a story that “fidget spinner origin story” had “spun out of control”: Catherine Hettinger was not actually the original inventor of the fidget spinner.
She agreed, her 15 minutes of fame came to a screeching halt, and life went on. From there, individual companies from Hasbro to smaller, Amazon-based businesses began to manufacture and sell fidget spinners.
To this day, the patent on the toy is completely unclear. The exact origins of the fidget spinner will forever remain a mystery.
Potential health benefits of fidget spinners
We’ve established that fidget spinners are fun little toys that you can spin for hours on end and stay focused and entertained…but is that all they’re capable of?
When fidget spinners made it big in 2017, manufacturers left and right began to claim that they were helpful to kids (and adults) with anxiety, ADHD, and autism. Fidget spinners were often hailed as self-regulation aids that help people remain calm and attentive.
I want to note upfront that, according to the ADHD Institute, there is absolutely no conclusive scientific evidence backing those claims.
In addition, teachers have expressed concerns that fidget spinners actually serve as major distractions in the classroom. Many schools have banned them.
However, this blogger makes a strong case for why fidget spinners should be allowed in schools. Plus, parents worldwide have hailed the benefits of fidget spinners.
Anecdotal evidence can be persuasive, and many people likely choose to purchase fidget spinners on the recommendation of friends, family, bloggers, and other people who claim that these little devices have significantly helped them or their kids.
How many of us turn to Amazon reviews in a time of indecision? We like to hear the real thoughts and opinions of people who have used a particular product.
That said, the claim that fidget spinners can help kids who struggle with anxiety or ADHD is a big one. This is clearly a bigger deal than allowing strangers to weigh in on a new area rug or coffeemaker. So who should we believe? Whose advice do we take on this matter?
Let’s take it from the top, and you can decide for yourself.
In favor of fidget spinners
How does a skill toy like a fidget spinner claim to help a kid with ADHD? Anxiety? Autism? Every situation and every child is different, but there must be at least some valid reason why so many have claimed fidget spinners work for their kids, their friends, or themselves.
For ADHD, the fidget spinner can work as a self-regulation aid. That’s just what it sounds like: regulating impulsive behavior related to ADHD through focusing on something else.
In short, the desire to fidget, move or interrupt a conversation or classroom setting is fulfilled by the fidget spinner. The child would be encouraged to spin the spinner instead of, say, blurting out an answer before the question has been asked in full.
Some parents of children diagnosed with ADHD claim that this shift of focus has worked wonders. Again, what works for them may not work for you and vice versa.
That same sort of focus shift is what fidget spinners claim to do for anxiety and autism as well. The urge to move, whether it’s anxiety or sensory induced, can be settled by focusing one’s attention onto a fidget spinner instead of the urge itself.
Here’s the thing. We all know that the autism spectrum is vast, along with the varying degrees of ADHD and anxiety. Developmental and emotional issues will differ in every human that has them, child or adult.
Without firm evidence that fidget spinners help to soothe these issues, I can’t claim here that they do. I will say that there is quite a lot of common sense advice and anecdotal evidence out there indicating that fidget spinners can be useful from a sensory standpoint.
What went wrong?
Then why, you ask, have fidget spinners been banned in educational facilities nationwide? There are a few reasons for this.
Not unlike the Pog craze of the mid 1990s, fidget spinners have become a phenomenon. Children everywhere have to have one. More than one, in fact! At one time, my child had 8.
You can see why this might put a damper on the use of fidget spinners in an educational setting. The dozens of kids pulling out fidget spinners in the middle of a math lecture was getting just a tad out of control.
Educators were frustrated, and began to argue that such a shift in focus wasn’t good for any child, let alone those with ADHD or autism. They complained that all these fidget spinners were distracting everyone in the class from learning. Schools moved toward banning fidget spinners, and some people even argued that the toys were actually dangerous.
Apparently, there was more than one incident involving fidget spinner tricks (which we’ll talk more about very soon) going awry. An example of a trick gone wrong: balancing your fidget spinner on your nose and it flies off and hits the kid next to you.
Now, not only have you been caught with your banned fidget spinner, but the kid next to you has to go to the nurse’s office. They’re going to call your parents, and it’s a disruption for everyone involved.
Enter: fidget spinner ban.
This move is completely understandable. Schools must maintain a safe and functional learning environment, and they cannot do so with constant disruption. The public fought back with various petitions and complaints, but fidget spinners remain banned in many schools across the U.S.
But what about the kids who need them—and do they really need them at all?
The general expert consensus is that, no, fidget spinners do not help with ADHD, anxiety or autism…at least not in a classroom setting.
Some educators have argued that self-regulation and fidget toys are meant to be felt (like a stress ball) rather than watched, so visual focus can remain on the teacher.
And some experts also worry that parents might be tempted to try a cheap and easy fix (the fidget spinner) instead of focusing on solutions that are proven to work.
So what about at home? That’s a different situation, in part because your fidget spinner won’t be distracting other students in the class. At home, children who use fidget spinners to cope with sensory and developmental issues may very well find that it helps. And not just children.
I can state, from first-hand experience, that a fidget spinner helped me through the morning sickness and the anxiety of early pregnancy, simply by shifting my focus.
I’d spin it for hours while I worked or lounged. I brought it everywhere with me. Mind over matter perhaps, but it did work.
Perhaps someday, scientific studies will validate the perks of fidget spinners in certain situations.
Then we’ll all know for sure whether or not fidget spinners truly benefit people with ADHD, autism, or anxiety and on what level. Until then, we can at least do some of our own research and make an educated decision.
Who knows? If it helps to make up your mind, here’s an article on the benefits of fidgeting. Not fidget spinners, but the act of fidgeting itself. Interesting, to say the least.
Now onto the fun stuff…
Fidget spinner tricks
In addition to the (potential!) health benefits, fidget spinners are super fun and fascinating. Once you’ve gotten used to your spinner, why not try learning a few tricks?
The most common “trick” that you’ll see with a fidget spinner is the good old classic spin. It’s easy to do, and the first thing that you’ll really get the hang of.
This method can be used with any type of spinner. All you do is hold the flat middle part of the spinner between your middle finger and thumb, and flick it! It will spin, and you’ve completed your first fidget trick.
The simple spin of a fidget spinner will provided a low noise, soothing (in my opinion) vibration, and a slight rocking motion as it balances itself and spins. You can use this method to spin on any surface!
This is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll hold the spinner, once again, in between your middle finger and thumb. Next, you’ll flick or push the arms of the spinner toward your hand instead of away.
Voila! Backwards spin! I like to stop a classic spin with a backwards spin. It’s one of my favorite mindless tricks.
This trick is super basic but lots of fun. Hold the spinner and start it off in a classic or backwards spin, whatever floats your boat. As it’s spinning, slowly lift your middle finger and watch it balance on your thumb!
You can also turn your hand upside down, spin it, and lift your thumb until the spinner is spinning on your index or middle finger. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.
The Single Tap
For the single tap, you’ll start with the convertible. Next, you’re going to toss the spinner up into the air using the leverage from your middle finger, which the spinner should be balancing on.
While it’s in the air, flip your hand over and catch the spinner on the back of your hand. You’re not done there! Lower your hand slightly, toss the spinner back up into the air and then catch it between your thumb and forefinger or middle finger.
Start with the convertible, which you’ve probably mastered by now, but instead of balancing on your middle finger, balance it on your index. Next, pop the spinner from your index finger to your middle! Boom, leapfrog.
The Nine-Finger Punch
This one is super tricky, but really fun once you have mastered it. Start with the convertible, balancing on your index instead of your middle finger. Then, pop the spinner up and bounce it from finger to finger…all the way to your pinky!
Once you’ve mastered that, can you do it backwards?
The Hand Transfer
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Spin your fidget between your thumb and middle finger by starting up a classic spin. Then, move it from one hand to the other…without stopping the spin!
Around the Back
This is the same as a hand transfer, only once you’ve got the spinner going, try and make the transfer behind your back. This trick, as well as The Hand Transfer, are wonderful tricks for kids.
Mastering tricks with your fidget spinner can be frustrating. Like anything, all it takes is a little bit of practice!
I will warn you though, it can get pretty addicting. You’ll find that once you master a trick one time, you’ll want to perfect it.
Just make sure you don’t let it go flying off to hit the person next to you…
How to make your own fidget spinner
What if I told you that you could make your very own fidget spinner? Half of you are probably wondering why you’d bother when you can just go buy one. But I bet at least some of you are thinking “Tell me more!”
There are many ways to successfully make your own fidget spinner, using everything from toothpicks to Legos! Making your own fidget spinner is a way for you to express your personality and creativity, and it’s also a fun arts and crafts activity to do with your kids.
YouTube offers hundreds of options. Here, I’ll provide you with some of the most popular (and easiest) methods available for whipping up a homemade fidget spinner. Remember me when you make it big on Etsy.
Toothpicks and water bottle caps method
It’s likely that you already have some toothpicks and water bottle caps in your house right now, no? Add some cardstock, pennies, an empty applesauce cup, a permanent marker, and super glue and you’ve got yourself a fidget spinner in the making.
- Take four water bottle caps.
- One of the water bottle caps will be your “bearing.” Poke a tiny toothpick sized hole directly in the center of it. You’ll want the toothpick to fit snugly, not slide out easily. Use a craft knife or a needle. Take care.
- Turn the empty, clean applesauce cup upside down and trace a water bottle cap with permanent marker on the bottom. Cut out the plastic circle.
- Make a hole in the plastic circle that matches up with the hole in your water bottle cap. The easiest way to do this is to insert the plastic circle into the water bottle cap and poke the needle or craft knife through the hold you’ve already made.
- Glue the plastic piece and the cap together.
- Glue a penny into the remaining water bottle caps (there should be three, since we are making a three-pronged fidget spinner).
- Using an additional penny, trace 10 circles onto your cardstock. Cut them out.
- Poke small holes, the same size as the holes in your plastic circle and cap, in 6 of the cardstock cutouts.
- Separate the circles into two piles of 5. Each pile should have 3 circles with a hole.
- Glue them together. Make sure the circles with the holes are on the bottom of each pile.
- Trim your toothpick, but leave enough room that it can fit through both piles of cardstock circles, the water bottle cap and plastic circle with room enough on either side to spin uninterrupted.
- Place one pile of your cardstock circles on the underside of the bottle cap. Place a small dab of glue where the cut out is and thread your toothpick through. Repeat this step on the top of your cap. Your toothpick should be all the way through the spinner. (It will poke through the cardstock circles that do not have a hole, this will make it sturdier).
- Glue the water bottle caps with pennies in a triangle formation to your center toothpick cap.
- Decorate however you like.
This method, if you have the correct materials, is even easier than the toothpick and water bottle cap! You’ll need three nuts, and one bearing. All available at the hardware store.
- Be sure to pick up a good, run-of-the-mill regular bearing. Take a hot glue gun and make three equidistant glue spots on side of the bearing.
- Glue the nuts to the three glue spots.
- Let the glue dry for 30 minutes.
This is a wonderful and inexpensive way for anyone to make a fidget spinner at home. It’s a sure cure for boredom on a rainy day! Here’s a video tutorial for a similar method using cardboard.
- You’ll need a sheet of cardboard. I would advise just ripping it off of any old cardboard box you’ve got lying around.
- You’ll also need a toothpick, and four coins. One coin should be larger than the rest. I like to use 1 quarter and 3 pennies.
- Take the cardboard piece and the large coin. Trace the coin onto the piece four times in the triangle shape of a fidget spinner.
- Draw lines to connect each circle. When this is complete, it should look like you’ve drawn a fidget spinner on the cardboard piece.
- Cut out your cardboard fidget spinner prototype.
- Use hot glue to attach your three small coins to the “arms” of your cardboard spinner. These should be glued to the end of the arms, where your coin was traced and where you’d normally find the circular part on the arm of a normal fidget spinner.
- Cover the sides of the fidget spinner. You can use another cardboard strip, cardstock or even scrapbook paper.
- Next, take your toothpick and make a hole in the center of your cardboard fidget spinner.
- Take the piece of cardboard again, and trace the large coin two more times. Cut out both circles individually.
- You can over the sides of these circles as well.
- Place them on either side of the middle of the cardboard fidget spinner. Poke them through the toothpick. One will go on top, and one on the bottom.
- Trim your toothpick on both sides, adding a glue dot so it stays put.
- You can cover the toothpick ends anyway you like. Maybe another piece of cardboard or a fun sticker. This is yours to decorate any way you please!
There are a variety of complicated ways to make a fidget spinner. These methods are the easiest, and they work! It’s a really fun way to encourage creativity, and you will have as many custom fidget spinners as you like without paying much at all. Win, win.
Speaking of custom fidget spinners…
How to customize your fidget spinner
Once you get into fidget spinners, it’s only a matter of time until you want one that is all your own. Let’s talk customized.Sounds fancy, right? It’s really not. There are a couple ways to go about making a fidget spinner that is customized to your personal style…that doesn’t involve gathering materials and making it from “scratch”.
This method is often used by small businesses and startups, but there is no reason that you can’t make one of your very own! The step-by-step mockup guides are super easy to follow.
Start with a design or template site like PicMonkey, and once you’ve got an idea of what you want your spinner to look like, take it to the mockup! Just be careful when it comes to ordering: Some print companies require bulk quantities only, but there are many that do not.
When you turn to a professional printing place to take care of your custom fidget spinner needs, you know that you’ll be getting something that comes out exactly how you envisioned. Customizing a spinner in this way makes a great gift as well!
You can also go about this the (kind of) hard way. Go to the craft store with a fidget spinner vision in your mind.
Purchase things like glue sticks, a hot glue gun, gems, printed duct tape, and acrylic paint. Pretty much anything you can stick on with hot glue will work! Let your imagination run wild.
When you’re ready, you can either take your fidget spinner completely apart (which we’ll discuss how to do in the cleaning section of this guide) to jazz it up, or leave it together and decorate it that way.
Fidget spinners are so much fun to customize. You can turn them into anything you want them to be!
Pro tip: Gems glued to the circular portion of the arms look so cool when spinning! Also, if you do decide to order a custom-made spinner instead of taking the DIY route, make sure you check out these LED light spinners. Amazing!
How to take apart and clean your fidget spinner
Fidget spinners run on a small ball bearing, as we’ve previously discussed. Occasionally, your fidget spinner will need a good cleaning.
Cleaning it will quiet it down (if you’ve noticed that it’s gotten louder), and it will also help it to spin faster and more smoothly! To clean it, you’ll have to take it apart.
Luckily, it’s not that hard. Follow these steps (or follow along with the video demo here) and you’ll have a squeaky clean fidget spinner in no time!
First, hold onto the flat part in the middle of the spinner. Twist the button (which just looks like a flat piece) on the top of the spinner to the left.
It can be hard to discern the top of a fidget spinner from the bottom. I understand. My advice is to turn both sides to the left and see which one pops off.
Both sides of the flat part will come off. One side screws into the other. It’s just a matter of taking a brief moment in figuring out which side turns.
Once you’ve unscrewed the flat part, also known as the middle or the cover of the bearing, it’s time to remove the “bearing housing.” This is a part in the middle where the ball bearings live and rest comfortably.
The bearing housing will have a slot on each side, parallel to one another. You can use a coin stuck into the slots to twist it to the left. If you don’t have a coin that fits (a quarter should work fine) you can use the flat side of a house key, or even a butter knife.
When twisted to the left, the bearing housing will come out easily. The bearing or bearings will be teeny, so be sure not to lose them when you pop them out of the housing.
Fill a small bowl with rubbing alcohol or mild soap and water. Get your hands on an old toothbrush and scrub the bearings gently.
Once you’ve removed all traces of dust and grimy buildup, you can dry them on a paper towel. Rub them gently until they’re dry, and return them to the bearing house.
From there, reassemble the fidget spinner! You’ll find that your spinner will move quickly and quietly after a good cleaning. This makes it easier to do tricks and to enjoy the overall experience of spinning.
How to avoid fidget spinner problems
Nothing comes without a problem or two, and that can be said of the fidget spinner. There are many who find them to be an annoyance, or even dangerous when used carelessly. My beloved fidget spinner has even popped up on the list of most dangerous toys for kids, as reported by the New York Post.
It’s important to be considerate of other people and aware of your surroundings when using a fidget spinner. Apart from that, there are a few other issues you may encounter. In this section, I’ll show you how to avoid or fix them.
We just talked about how to take a fidget spinner apart. The bottom of the flat part unscrews from the top.
It’s within the realm of possibility that, from constant spinning, those pieces may come loose on their own. This will cause the bearings to come out, and smaller children will be tempted to put those bearings into their mouths.
What to do? Check your spinners regularly for loose parts, and do not allow small children who are still in the mouth exploration stage to play with them. As with any toy, safety measures must be taken.
Catching on fire
What?! But it’s true, at least according to this family, who say that their Bluetooth fidget spinner burst into flames while charging.
It’s important to note that most regular fidget spinners don’t have batteries or require charging, so this is a non-issue for low-tech models. In addition, any device that charges has the potential of doing the very same thing. Remember the Galaxy Note 7?
My advice is, first, to stick to the basics: a nice humble ceramic and metal spinner that doesn’t play music and poses no fire hazards. But if you do opt for a fancier Bluetooth model, maybe keep an eye on it while it’s charging.
Everything is hazardous, depending on who is using it and how. When my kids really want to fight, they can make a weapon out of a sticker book.
So when it comes to fidget spinners, are we making a big deal out of nothing? Yes, kids (and adults) can turn a fidget spinner into a throwing star if they’re not careful—so enforce care.
Safety rules are a part of going to school or living in a world that includes other people. Set safety boundaries and stick to them. Just as you would with any other toy.
Fidget spinner challenges
I’ll close this guide by sharing some fun challenges involving fidget spinners that have taken over YouTube!
Gather up all the fidget spinners you’ve got. If you have none, wait a few weeks to try this challenge. If you have more than one, you’re good to go.
Which one spins the longest? What is it made out of? What type of bearings does it have? Will your results surprise you or line up with your predictions? This is a fun family challenge, especially if everyone has their own spinner.
Loser buys ice cream.
This simple but fun challenge is best with a bunch of friends or family members. Everyone grabs a fidget spinner, and you perform one trick at a time, over and over, until someone screws up.
When it inevitably happens, that person is out and you move onto the next trick. It will go on this way until there is one spinner standing.
The best part of this challenge is that you can make up whatever tricks you want. Balance the spinner on your knee or nose. Make it fun and keep it interesting!
It’s a wonderful alternative to your everyday party games, that’s for sure!
The 3am Challenge
Feeling spooky? You will definitely be just a tad creeped out by this fidget spinner challenge.
The 3am Challenge took YouTube by storm in late 2017. This challenge can take a number of forms, sometimes involving two fidget spinners, three, or even just one.
Sometimes, all the challenge involved was waking up at 3am and playing with a fidget spinner. Some videos claimed you had to spin it on a Ouija Board. Whatever you chose to do, the premise was the same: The challenge had to involve a fidget spinner and it had to take place at 3 in the morning.
So what happens when you engage in fidget spinning at 3am.? Nothing. I can assure you that nothing happens…at least not in my house.
YouTube, however, is a completely different story. According to YouTubers (who may or may not be reliable, you decide), 3am is the “witching hour” or “devil’s hour.” This means it’s easier to communicate with the other side.
I’m not sure what it all has to do with a fidget spinner, but reports of creepy phone calls, strange happenings in the room where the fidget was spun, as well as ghostly appearances are rampant on YouTube.
It’s important for me to highlight here that many of these creepy videos are not geared toward kids, so do take some precautions. Number one would be knowing your kids’ limits. If a video is too scary, turn it the heck off!
Never allow your child to call strangers (this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many videos encourage it). I also don’t allow internet usage at 3am or at any other unsupervised time.
If you’re a believer and you want to try it out as a family, be sure to let us know what you find out! I would love to hear your spooky fidget stories.
Did you have any idea just how controversial fidget spinners are? They can be a lot of fun, but they have received their share of negative media coverage. Most of it has to do with someone doing something stupid with a fidget spinner, and not the spinner itself.
All in all, fidget spinning is a fantastic hobby to pick up. Personally, I’ve found it great for releasing anxiety and giving me something new to focus on.
Instead of worrying, spend that energy on perfecting a fidget trick. Spinners can be used for anything from shifting focus to simply passing the time.
It’s an inexpensive hobby that requires nothing but a spinner (available everywhere, dollar stores included) and a few skills picked up along the way. I’m certain that once you get started, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to put the spinner down!