Thankfully, toy fads come and go

Published 8:20 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

They flip bottles. All the time. Everywhere I turn, children are throwing partially filled water bottles through the air. The goal is simple: land the bottle upright after flipping it through the air a couple times. If you’re really good, you can land it on its top.

The sound of partially-filled plastic bottles hitting the table (or floor) is a distinctive “thwump.” And it is annoying as heck. If you have children or grandchildren, you certainly know this sound. A room full of children flipping bottles can produce a mind-numbing cacophony that will grate on your nerves like nothing else.

The bottles were banned from our house as soon as they showed up, but churches are filled with them. Schools are as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if gangs of children gathered at sunset for epic bottle-flipping battles. 

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As annoying as bottle-flipping is, at least it’s a relatively cheap activity. For 50 cents a kid can be mesmerized for hours.

But just as the bottle-flipping craze was at its peak, along came another activity to keep pre-teen minds occupied. The fidget spinner is a simple thing. It’s a somewhat-triangular shaped gadget with a ball bearing in the middle. Each “arm” of the spinner also has a bearing.

So what do you do with it? You spin it. That’s about it. Why makes it so attractive to kids? I have no idea.

But there appears to be some level of skill involved. I’ve seen them spinning on kids’ faces, on tables and all sorts of surfaces.

And these things are everywhere. You can’t go to church or the ball field without seeing dozens of them in action. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just give it time. Brookhaven has been taken over by fidget spinners so it’s only a matter of time before you see one for yourself.

Some manufacturers suggest the gadgets have benefits for those who struggle with anxiety or attention problems. Forbes magazine named fidget devices “the must-have toy for 2017.” So I guess there are business offices filled with adults playing with these things.

“It may not sound like it, but these fidget toys could very well improve your day-to-day by giving you an innocuous outlet for your nervous or bored energy, and our testers unanimously found this to be true,” Forbes wrote in a review of the gadgets. “A few of us noticed we got up from our desks less, dumping energy into fidgeting with the spinner rather than taking mindless trips to the pantry.”

That sounds like a lot of praise for a gadget that is really just a piece of metal that spins around a ball bearing.

And it turns out the things can be really expensive. Forbes says a good fidget spinner can cost as much as $199. The ones I see cost much less. 

As odd as the things are, they are much less annoying than bottles being flipped through the air. And if they keep a kid from biting their fingernails or bothering me with endless questions, then I guess I can live with them. They are relatively noiseless, so they have that going for them.

Are there better ways for a child to spend their time besides staring at a spinning gadget? I can think of dozens. Their best attribute might be that they keep kids off phones and other devices. Surely staring at a spinning metal triangle is better than staring at a screen.

If you have no idea what a fidget spinner is, don’t worry. They’ll be replaced by the next fad long before most of us adults figure out what they are.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at