Pop Its are a toy craze that made waves in households across the country after appearing in a TikTok video with a monkey. The popular fidget toy is basically supped-up bubble wrap. Featured in a 2021 article in The New York Times, Pop Its have enthralled kids everywhere with its satisfying poppable blisters. Here’s what you need to know about these flexible silicone toys and how playing with them might benefit your kids.
Where Pop It Fidget Toys Originated
The story of Pop It begins with Theo and Ora Coster, a married couple from Israel. Over the years, they invented more than 190 games—including the classic face recognition game Guess Who?—and founded a company called Theora Design, according to the BBC. (Amazing fact: Theo was actually a classmate of Anne Frank.)
When Ora’s sister died from breast cancer in the mid-1970s, she reportedly had a dream about a field of breasts that could be pressed from one side to the other and back again. Theo Coster then created a prototype inspired by her vision. The design sat around for many years until the couple’s sons, Boaz and Gideon Coster, who now run the company, sold it to Montreal-based games company FoxMind.
FoxMind manufactured the product in silicone, and it was marketed as a game called Last One Lost, a puzzle in which two players press the bubbles together, and the player who presses the last one loses. It debuted in 2013 but didn’t get much traction. However, in 2019, the company relaunched the toy under the name Pop It! and hit Target shelves.
How Pop It Fidget Toys Took Off
The toy’s big moment has been linked to its appearance in a viral TikTok video. In the clip, a capuchin monkey-turned-influencer with almost 8 million followers named Gaitlyn Rae can be seen playing with a Pop It. The monkey’s owner, Jessica Lacher, told the BBC: “Somebody sent her a pop-it for her birthday. … That was the first we had ever seen of them.”
Gaitlyn’s video is credited with launching the Pop Its craze. In addition to authentic Pop Its, which come in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors, you can now get Pop It-style knockoff toys—not licensed by FoxMind—in a variety of shapes and colors. You can find versions inspired by Peppa Pig, dinosaurs, pizzas, unicorns, pineapples, and more.
Kids particularly enjoyed the stress-relieving aspect of Pop Its during the pandemic and while learning remotely. According to The New York Times. “Especially in these times, they can be calming, they can be soothing,” Adrienne Appell, a senior vice president at The Toy Association, told the outlet. “Even adults are enjoying them.”
The Benefits of Fidget Toys
Clearly, the straightforward benefit of playing with Pop Its is the simple enjoyment kids (or adults) get from popping the blisters back and forth. Research indicates that fidget toys might help relieve stress and improve focus and fine motor control, particularly for those that struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, autism, or other learning differences.
The fidget aspect of the toy keeps hands busy, which can help calm the mind and reduce other distractions. But every child is different, as Yamalis Diaz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and a clinical assistant professor at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, explained to The New York Times. So, fidget toys may help some kids feel calm and engage more effectively in school (or another task requiring their attention), but others may not see the same boost in productivity.
For example, according to The New York Times story, Dr. Diaz treated two children with the same diagnosis, both of whom chose a Rubik’s Cube as a fidget toy, and although one child could keep answering questions while he played with the toy, the other was entirely consumed by it and couldn’t multitask.
Still, whether they’re using them as fidget toys, a fun diversion, or trading them with friends, it sounds like kids are enjoying a variety of benefits from the bubble wrap-style items. The only thing that remains to be seen is how long Pop It fidget toys will fly off shelves.