January 27, 2022

When the daughter of a friend of mine had her second birthday I gave her a Corn Popper Push Toy.  The toy looked like a corn popper on a set of wheels and was meant to be pushed around the house by the child.  As the wheels turned the balls inside the clear sphere would bounce up and down, making the pop, pop, pop noise of a corn popper.  The toy seemed to be loved by most children at the time, and the girl would push the popper around the house for hours on end, driving my friend crazy.  One day she told me she could hardly wait until I had a child so she could buy such a thoughtful gift for them.  I had no children, so I was not worried.  When I did have a son, she made good on her promise and gave him a Corn Popper toy for his birthday.  Sadly, he also loved to play with his popper.

When I looked online, I found the latest toy craze are fidgets.  A fidget toy is an object that can be given to a child to regulate their need for movement and touch.  This enhances the ability to remain calm, focused, and attentive.  Fidget toys provide a place for kids to direct energy in a less distracting and more socially appropriate way while they focus on the task at hand (listening to a classroom lesson or paying attention to a book during circle time).  If you are the parent or grandparent of school-aged child, chances are you are aware of these toys.  A new fidget has taken the world by storm called Pop It.  The toy has spread around the world and is also known as crazy poppers, crazy snaps, push pop fidgets, and bubble pop.  This is basically a round disc that flips over when you are done popping so you can start again on the other side.  Pop It is advertised as having all the fun of bubble wrap without the waste (who does not like to pop bubble wrap?).  I bet this popper still drives parents and teachers crazy.

While the fidget toys have taken over the elementary age children, the traditional Corn Popper is still a best seller for pre-school children.  It has even morphed over the years and is offered in a variety of shapes (turtles, cars, telephones, lawn mowers).   Push and pull toys are designed for toddlers that have learned to walk but have yet to master the skill of pushing or pulling things behind them.  While some pull toys are animal-shaped, others feature moving parts like bobbing heads or gaping mouths.  I have seen (and heard) lawn mower toys like the one I saw sitting on a front lawn near our house last week.  Like the Corn Popper they are loud and maddening, even if they do help the child master motor skills.  I would bet the parents knew the toy was outside in the elements and left it anyway.  

Thoughts:  Like the Pop It craze the Fidget spinner was the craze in 2017.  The toy was promoted as helping people who have trouble focusing or those who may need to fidget to relieve nervous energy, anxiety, or psychological stress.  There are claims that a fidget spinner can help calm people with anxiety or neurodivergence (ADHD and autism).  There is no scientific evidence they are an effective treatment.  Office products like stress balls have been marketed for adults based on the same premise.  When I worked for the state, I was constantly asked (uninformed?) questions that it was my job to answerer.  I was given a stress cube by another worker.  After the person left, I could respond by pushing one of its explosive sounds (my head going off) buttons.  Perhaps this was still justice for getting my friend the Corn Popper.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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