WATCH — How fidget toys work and why some kids use them

Alexia Sabau
Story by Alexia Sabau and CBC Kids News • 2021-09-22 15:12

The key is to choose the right toy for the situation you’re in


From Pop Its to Infinity Cubes and Noodlies, the fidget toys of today come in many different forms.

And now that a lot of us have returned to school in person, you may be seeing a lot of your classmates bringing their fidget toy of choice to class to help them concentrate during the school day.

But is there any actual evidence that fidget toys help?

With 14.2 billion views on TikTok videos hashtagged #fidgettoys and more than 200,000 fidget toy-related posts on Instagram, the trend has taken off in a big way in the past year or two. (Image credit: @christianasarghi/TikTok)

The answer is as straightforward as one of those Tangle toys — in other words, not very straightforward at all.

The science behind fidgeting

Even though fidget toys hit the mainstream scene back in 2017 —  with the original fidget spinner trend — people were fidgeting way before that.

Here’s looking at you, ✨clicky pen clickers of the world!✨

Check out the latest Hey Alexia, What’s Trending video to meet the real main character: Grandma Alexia. (Image credit: CBC)

Studies have been done to find out why people fidget in the first place.

Turns out that people who have trouble concentrating are able to stay on task more easily when they get to fidget, said Maaya Hitomi, an academic strategy coach who specializes in helping learners with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Those who experience anxiety may also find comfort in fidgeting, Hitomi said.

“It gives your mind something to focus on that isn’t the thing that’s worrying you.”

Hitomi said sometimes fidget toys can help meet that need.

“For a lot of people they can be a really good tool to help them focus.”

Some fidget toys are a yes, others are a hard nope

While some are true believers in the benefits of fidget toys, others worry that they’re more distracting than helpful in the classroom.

When fidget spinners were all the rage in 2017, for example, Dr. Jennifer Crosbie, a clinical psychologist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, told the CBC that the toys weren’t interactive enough to be useful.

The best fidget toys, she said, encourage the user to move and release excess energy, whereas fidget spinners kind of do the work for you.

While she wasn’t as critical, Hitomi agreed that it’s important to choose the right toy for the situation you’re in.

Toys that make loud noises, are flashy, or don’t actually stimulate your mind and body aren’t going to do much to help you or those around you in class, Hitomi said.

Alexia, left, holds an example of a fidget toy that Hitomi said might be too distracting to take to class. On the flip side, Hitomi had a small Pop It toy that she said could be a better option for students. (Image credit: CBC)

Check out the latest Hey Alexia, What’s Trending? to learn more about the fidget toy trend.

Do you find fidget toys helpful or distracting? Email us at to tell us what you think!

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Graphic design by Philip Street

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About the Contributor

Alexia Sabau
Alexia Sabau
CBC Kids News Contributor
Alexia Sabau is an inquisitive teen who likes to keep up with the trends. The grade 11 student is a youth ambassador with a passion for community building and motivation to make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels. She worked as a junior reporter for the Calgary International Children’s Festival and Shaw TV Calgary. Alexia is also a devoted Harry Potter fan who is excited to work her magic on CBC Kids News.

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