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Viral 'popit' toys are the new fidget spinners. What are they?

Pop... pop... pop... pop!
/ Source: TODAY

Shhh... Do you hear that?

Pop... pop... pop... pop...pop!

Remember fidget spinners? Water bottle flipping? Slime? The latest viral summer toy trend captivating children ages 5 to 20 is similarly sensory-friendly, the perfect blend of therapy and whimsy.

NUTTY TOYS Popit Sensory Fidget Toy

Parents say their children are obsessed with "popit" fidget toys — brightly-colored silicone in various shapes like rainbows, unicorns, food, or dinosaurs with pokeable "bubbles" — that are widely available on Amazon and at Walmart and the like, and marketed as "stress relievers."

Pediatricians, teachers, and therapists all confirm their patients and students began showing up with them in their offices and classrooms this spring... and they haven't stopped.

With the aid of TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, fidget toys of all kinds have taken the world and parents' wallets by storm, especially the colorful popits, which are sort of like having a colorful silicone version of bubble wrap. Lori Badanes, owner of toy store Einstein's Attic in Northport, New York, told TODAY Parents she estimates her shop alone sells at least 100 popits a week.

"They are very soothing, as children use the popping to refocus and reset," she said. "Kids like to collect them, and as I often find with these fads, it really brings parents and kids together."

"My boys love these," confirmed Maile Chatlos, a mom of three boys ranging in age from elementary school to high school in Longwood, Florida. "Especially my middle child. It's a great coping tool for his anxiety."

Lisa Goldman, a mom of two college age students from Central Florida, said she initially bought the toys during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, she keeps them in a basket on her coffee table. "High school and college students are never in my house without holding them!" she told TODAY Parents. "They play with them while watching movies, talking, etc. I bought a few as graduation gifts because they loved them so much."

My own 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, has also become a slave to the siren song of the fidget toy craze. When she found a popit keychain in the shape of an avocado this week, she reminded me of myself in 1985 when I found a Cabbage Patch Kid under the Christmas tree.

I admit I didn't understand the attraction, and when I asked Lucy what it is, she said popits "help me focus" and "distract me so I don't bite my nails." But I suspected that as with most toy trends, it's really the thrill of the hunt and the collectibility that is driving her passion, and she said that is also a big part of it for her.

Lucy Tate, 9, was thrilled to find a new popit fidget toy in boutique toy store Curio while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina.
Lucy Tate, 9, was thrilled to find a new popit fidget toy in boutique toy store Curio while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina.Allison Slater Tate

Clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Spannagel, whose own 9 and 12-year-old sons have also been collecting popits, acknowledged the toys are "everywhere" and told TODAY Parents they are not necessarily going to help our kids with their stress, anxiety, or focus issues, but if our kids believe they do, then they do.

Research studies have shown that fidgeting and having outlets for movement can help individuals with attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders, Spannagel said, but there is no study on how toys like these — which resemble tools used for occupational therapy, but aren't exactly the same — affect children and teens.

"What I find clinically is this is the 'sweet spot' between being a fidget tool and a fidget toy, and it is a sweet spot per kid, too," Spannagel said. "I could have a kid who would have one of these popit things and be on task in a classroom, or I could have a kid who could not do that."

If a child believes the toy helps them, Spannagel said, then that is half the battle won. "It's whatever you think it is," she said. "I think it's no different than two summers ago, when fidget spinners were the hip thing to collect."

"I'm just happier they're cheaper than LOL Dolls and not a screen. Win-win!" said Los Angeles mom Meredith Gordon-Hochberg, whose daughter Margaux, 10, is a self-proclaimed fidget toy expert.

And if you think they look enticing even as an adult, you're not alone.

Florida mom of two sons Tessie DeVore said the toys help her get through some boring times. "Forget the kids! I have four of them myself and use them during endless Zoom meetings!"

Pop... pop...pop...pop!

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