The surprising origins of fads

Fads for Kids - Fidget Spinner

If you are in close range of school aged children, you may have noticed the recent fidget spinner fad that swept schools across the world – though this appears to have faded (for now).

Like many fads through the ages, the ideas that are most heartily embraced by children are often the simplest.

Whether you celebrate these fads or curse their very existence, you might still be interested to learn just how some of these toy trends originated.

Fun facts about fidget spinners

Fidget spinners are made from metal or plastic, with a central bearing from which several prongs spin around. You can simply hold them by your thumb and finger and spin them, or dazzle with some twisting and twirling techniques.

Key facts

  • Engineer Catherine Hettinger is widely credited for creating the first fidget spinner back in the early 90s when she was suffering from an autoimmune disorder that compromised her ability to play with her young daughter.
  • Hettinger has also claimed that the idea for fidget spinners arose during a trip to Israel, where she witnessed young boys throwing rocks at police officers and wanted to come up with a way for children to soothe their pent-up energy and frustration.
  • Fidget spinners are generally marketed as a concentration aid or stress relief for people who struggle with concentration or nervous energy (e.g. those with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders or anxiety).
  • However, some experts believe that fidget spinners actually cause more distraction.
  • As a result, some schools have banned their use entirely.

Psst.. did you know that Stuck On You has a huge range of labels sizes, shapes and designs to suit just about anything? Including labels perfect for fidget spinners!

Fads for Kids - Fidget spinner

Image: jlaswilson

A slinky story

The slinky is a spring-shaped toy that travels down the stairs, among other tricks.

Key facts

  • American naval engineer Richard James was assigned by a shipbuilding company to develop responsive springs that could stabilize sensitive instruments aboard rough seas.
  • In 1943, while working on this project, he accidentally knocked one of the springs off of his workbench, marvelling at its ability to ‘walk’ across the floor. An idea for a new children’s toy had sprung (tee hee).
  • James quit his engineering job and devoted his energy to this new business venture.
  • His wife Betty was instrumental in the success of the slinky, first and foremost coming up with the product name slinky, and then taking over the business when her husband left her and their six children to join a cult in Bolivia.
  • The business blossomed under Betty James’ leadership, and she was adamant that the slinky remain affordable for all children.
  • The humble slinky can be applied in a wide variety of settings: pecan-picking machines, antennas, pigeon repellent.. It is also a popular device for demonstrating the properties of wave motion to physics students.
  • The height of the slinky’s popularity was the 1940s and 1950s, however they remain popular today.

Fads for Kids - Slinkies

Image: Gpeltier

The truth about trolls

Troll dolls are fuzzy-haired rubber dolls intended as a good luck charm.

Key points

  • The first troll doll was handcrafted by Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam. He made it for his daughter Lila in 1959 for Christmas as he couldn’t afford a present.
  • In response to its popularity with other children in the village, Dam started crafting multiple wooden trolls and selling them door to door. Shortly after, he opened a factory and started making the trolls out of the more economical rubber.
  • Dam clearly recognised the wordplay potential of his name, calling his company Dam Things and having designs such as Dam Dolls and Dammit.
  • Unfortunately, Dam’s copyright was less-than-watertight (see what I did there?), spawning imitations that flourished all over America. The Dam company finally restored their United States copyright in 2003, preventing unlicensed production.
  • The trolls and their various iterations reached the height of popularity in the 1960s, experiencing a resurgence in the late 80s and 90s.
  • Dam’s vision for his troll dolls differed remarkably from their depiction in fairytales as hideously ugly creatures who lived under bridges and tricked innocent passers-by. In his designs, Dam toned down some of these traditionally ‘ugly’ features while retaining their odd charm. This is because according to Scandinavian tradition, a laughing person is insulated from bad luck. Dam’s idea was that these cheeky and funny-looking trolls would inspire laughter – whether with or at – therefore providing protection from the world’s ills.

Fads for Kids - Troll Dolls

Do I make you giggly baby? Do I? Image: PublicDomainPictures

Sensational slap bands

Slap bands (aka Slap Wraps, slap bracelets) are long pieces of steel covered in fabric, designed to be snapped and unfurled around a circular body part (generally a wrist).

  • Winsconsin shop teacher, Stuart Anders, was playing around with a piece of steel in his father’s shop when an idea slapped him in the face.. or rather, wrist. Slap wraps were born.
  • They became hugely popular in the 1990s, with a small resurgence recently.
  • In 2011, a Florida primary school purchased cheap Chinese versions of the Slap Wraps to reward students for their fundraising achievements. However, alarmed students and parents started to notice that when the fabric wore off, nude pictures were revealed on the metal underneath. Oops.
  • Slap bands are not just a fun toy but also a fashion statement. With a choice of colours and designs, there is a style that suits all children and teenagers.


Where’s the naked lady? Via Giphy.

Which fads dominated your childhood?