A new toy craze has kids, toy stores and schools spinning out of control.
They’re called spinners. But, if you’re a kid or a parent we don’t need to tell you that.
For the rest of you, spinners are 3-inch wide twirling gadgets.
The spinner craze is unlike many other toy crazes. They’re not made by a major company, timed for the holiday season or promoted in TV commercials. They’re more easily found at gas stations or 7-Eleven than at big toy chains.
Teaching Toys & Books in Tacoma and its Gig Harbor sister store Teaching Toys Too can’t keep them on the shelves.
In fact, they don’t even put them on the shelves.
“They were already reserved by people before they got here,” co-owner Valla Wagner said of a shipment of 60 she received Friday.
Fidget spinners have been around for years, mostly used by kids with autism or attention disorders to help them concentrate. But they exploded in popularity this spring.
“These are the things that no one ever sees coming down the pike,” Wagner said. “They’ve caught on for kids who don’t necessarily need them.”
The spinners are purchased by both kids and their parents.
“We get a lot of calls from perplexed parents, ‘My kids are saying something about spinners, do you know what that is and do you have any?’ ”
After Mason Middle School released its kids Wednesday afternoon, several stopped in Teaching Toys on Proctor Street to look, unsuccessfully, for spinners.
Outside, Aidan Dunn, 13, had one in his backpack. He had just received it — his first — after ordering online.
“Most stores are out,” Dunn said. “They don’t have it anymore. Everybody’s buying them.”
Dunn said it’s not a distraction in school. He spun it Wednesday at Mason while listening to a teacher’s lecture.
Dunn and several other Mason students said about half the kids there have spinners.
“Usually they have it below their desk,” Dunn said. “A lot of teachers don’t care. But there are some specific teachers who will get mad and take them away.”
Several Mason students said the school just banned them. But a district spokeswoman disputed that.
“We do allow students to have fidget items to help with anxiety, focus, etc., but that is usually a case-by-case basis between families, students and the schools,” said Rae McNally. “It is a classroom/building determination as to whether or not any device (not just spinners) is disruptive to the educational process.”
Student Max Upton, 12, said he doesn’t bring his spinner to Mason because of the ban.
“It’s nice to just have, spinning on your finger,” Upton said.
Spinners can be used by kids in the Clover Park School District if a student has a need for them, said spokeswoman Kim Prentice.
“The district will work with the student and parent to find out the best time to use it, so it’s not a disruption,” Prentice said. Otherwise, “The item can be confiscated and then returned to the parent or guardian.”
Spinners can range from $10 to $20 depending on quality and how many bearings they contain.
A dislodged bearing was swallowed by a 10-year-old Texas girl recently. She survived after nearly choking on it, her mother reported.
Wagner expects the fad to die down to a Rubik’s Cube-like level in a year’s time or so.
“It won’t last forever, it never does in the toy industry.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.