In 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one particular product gained a lot of popularity across the globe. So much so that its popularity has steadily grown since then. To date, this item is among the most popular fidget toys. The Pop-it fidget toy is an intriguing toy that many people love. This article covers everything you need to know about these types of toys.
What Is A Pop-it Fidget Toy?
Psychology has shown that toys have a significant impact on the growth and development of an individual. This is particularly true for children.
Primarily, toys are meant to make free time enjoyable for kids. The excitement achieved from the play is what leads to the developmental changes seen in children who play with toys. Adults can also use toys as play is a natural yearning by human beings.
Pop-it fidget toys have a similar effect on the user. Playing with these toys is said to impact the neural pathway, especially for people having sensory issues. These include people with sensory stimulation challenges like ADHD, ADD, and ASD who can benefit from these toys. In another section, we will go into detail about how this works.
Pop-its are a type of fidget toys. A fidget toy is a small hand-held object that is meant for mindless or mindful play. This means that the person playing with it can do so attentively or not. They have a pleasing and fulfilling effect on the player. Other common types of fidget toys include fidget spinners and fidget cubes.
To understand pop-it fidget toys better, we can break up the word and define them separately. The first word pop-it means to poke with fingers until a pop sound is made. This is the primary characteristic of the pop-its fidget toys.
Secondly, we have the word fidget. This word means to nervously make movements with fingers or feet. If these movements are uncontrolled, they can physically manifest in individuals who suffer from anxiety and nervousness. Therefore, the pop-it fidget toys were developed in response to this with the aim of helping nervous people have something to pop when they are feeling anxious.
Why Are Pop-it Fidget Toys So Popular?
While the popularity of pop-it fidget toys rose during the COVID-19 lockdown, they were invented in 2014. These toys made their debut as fun logic games for all ages. Logic games still existed at the time of the invention. Therefore, there was no unique selling point (USP) of the pop-its.
That was until the lockdown hit and people were forced to be isolated and cut out from their normal environments. Naturally, people like interacting and forging meaningful connections with others. When this aspect of humanity is forcefully cut off, it can have adverse effects on people, with one of these effects being anxiety.
Before the pandemic and isolation situation, there were studies done that revealed the impact of fidget toys on sensory pathways. They revealed that people who have challenges with concentration and focus could benefit from fidgeting with such toys.
The popularity of pop-it fidget toys has been gradual. Factors such as the research studies have greatly contributed to their adoption. Additionally, the major factor was the lockdown situation given that they gained the most popularity in 2021.
Moreover, as alternative methods of dealing with chronic conditions such as ADHD are getting recognized and accepted widely, tools like pop-it fidget toys are gaining popularity. These non-medical approaches are more user-friendly and effective.
Material Used to Make Pop-it Fidget Toys
One of the major characteristics of pop-it fidget toys is their soft feel on the hands. For one, they are made mainly for children; therefore, softness is essential. Secondly, this softness is required to enable the popping and squeezing. In other words, they are supposed to be flexible and have a high tensile strength.
Silicone is one of the materials that exhibit these properties. Apart from being flexible and durable, silicone is also easy to clean, non-toxic (specific grades), and resistant to many conditions. Pop-it fidget toys are made using a particular grade of silicone known as food-grade silicone.
Food-grade silicone (FDA-approved silicone)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a US-based international regulator for foods and products that handle it. It develops tests and certifications that product manufacturers must pass for their items to be regarded as ‘safe for human use’.
Since silicone is a widely used product in the consumer category, it makes so much sense to use it for making pop-it fidget toys. Food-grade silicone is safe and non-toxic, which makes it the perfect material for children’s toys.
Features of Food-grade Silicone
Food-grade silicone has many safety features. Mostly, they include a lack of toxic elements that are found in other grades of silicone and other materials. You will realize that this specific grade of silicone does not contain most of the substances found in plastics. The following are some of the features of food-grade that make it safe.
- Phthalates-free. This is a chemical compound that is mostly added to plastic precursors to make them flexible. Phthalates are linked to asthma attacks, which makes products with this material not safe when ingested.
- BPS-free. BPS is essentially another type of Bisphenol A. However, BPS is Bisphenol S in full. Food-grade silicone is BPS-free meaning that it is free of plastic compounds that can affect the health of a kid playing with pop-it fidget toys.
- BPA-free. Bisphenol A or BPA for short is a plastic compound. It is known to have negative health implications if ingested. Therefore, the FDA requires that all products that come into contact with food be BPA-free.
- Micro-plastic free. Microplastics are small fragments of plastic that are found in many products. As you already know the effects of plastic on the body, you then know that microplastic-free materials are essential for making pop-it fidget toys.
- Cadmium-free. Some silicone raw materials contain cadmium. It is a heavy metal element that can lead to the deterioration of lung and kidney health when ingested. Limiting exposure to cadmium is recommended to avoid extremes such as organ failure or death.
- Mercury-free. Mercury is another heavy metal that is known to be lethal. Like cadmium, it is also found in silicone raw materials in substantial quantities. Food-grade silicone undergoes special techniques to remove it from the final composition and prevent health hazards.
Toys are supposed to be safe from toxins for many reasons. For one, kids naturally tend to put things that they are holding in their mouths. This is a quick way to transmit toxins from the material into their body. Therefore, using food-grade silicone is guaranteed to prevent such accidents.
How Pop-it Fidget Toys Are Made
Manufacturing pop-it fidget toys takes a similar approach to making any other silicone-based product. Still, the process will also depend on the manufacturing company and the specifications of the pop-it fidget toy being manufactured.
Silicone Compression Molding
This method of making silicone products involves shaping un-vulcanized LSR silicone material using molds made from metal. This article explains more about the process. Let us specifically look at the steps that are taken to produce pop-its using silicone compression molding. This process will be standard for most small and large-scale manufacturers, although there might be differences depending on the manufacturer.
Step 1: Rolling Silicone
Silicone is rolled using specialized machines that ensure it mixes well with the dye. This dye is applied in small quantities and it is used to change the color of colorless material to the desired one.
Since most pop-its are multi-colored, different dyes are used. They include green, red, blue, and yellow. Essentially, almost all the colors of the rainbow are used. The rolling takes some time until the material is fully colored.
Step 2: Cutting into Small Pieces
The long sheets of silicone are then transferred to another machine that cuts them into small pieces to facilitate the next step. Cutting these pieces is quite straightforward and quick since there are not a lot of considerations required in this step.
For this step, the size of the cut pieces also depends on the shape and size of the pop-it fidget toy. Small shapes and sizes will call for small pieces and vice versa.
Step 3: Compression Molding
The top part of the mold is opened and the cut pieces are placed on the bottom mold. This is what turns the silicone into the toys.
In this step, heat is used as the vulcanizing agent. This process is also called curing. Vulcanization gives silicone its properties while still maintaining its flexibility and pliability. In other words, this step is all about solidifying the silicone pieces in the mold using heat.
Step 4: Removing Excess Material
Since most mold platforms have many molds in one, the machine spews out molded pop-its that are joined. The products are held together by the excess silicone that spills out when the compressor exerts pressure.
Unlike the previous steps, this step is largely manual. The excess material is separated from the finished products using blades or just bare hands. This step ensures that the pop-its are presentable and also separated.
Silicone Pad Printing
This is another popular method of manufacturing pop-it fidget toys. It involves the use of a special machine, silicone pads, and silicone ink. It undergoes a different procedure from the compression molding one.
The silicone pad printing process happens as follows;
Step 1: Mixing the two-part ink
The silicone ink that is used needs to be mixed with a curing agent that will facilitate the curing process. Mixing the base ink and curing agent leads to a chemical reaction that primes the ink for the curing or hardening process.
Step 2: Printing on substrate
A silicone substrate that will be used as the pad is chosen and prepped for printing. There are many types of printers used by different manufacturers. These printers are fed the prepared printing that is supposed to be transferred to the pad.
In most cases, the pads will already be cut into the desired shape of the pop-it toy. Therefore, the main function of the printer is to transfer the design onto the pad. This process is a straightforward and effective alternative to compression molding.
Features of Pop-it Fidget Toys
For the most part, the features of a toy depend on its material and use. The properties of the material used influence the features. In the case of silicone pop-its, the features of the toys will be largely contributed by the physical and chemical properties of silicone.
They are reusable
Something that can be used multiple times is said to be reusable. While some products cannot be used twice or more, toys need to be reusable. It would not make sense to buy a pop-it fidget toy every time you want to play with it.
Reusable products have a positive impact on finances and the environment. To start with, when something can be used for more than that, you are getting more worth from it in relation to its purchase price. Also, being reusable means that there won’t be excess of it needed in the manufacturing. This reduces our carbon footprints on the planet.
Used pop-it toys can be recycled
Recycling means converting used products into new products. The silicone material is generally quite recyclable due to its durability properties. This means you can make another silicone material from used pop-it fidget toys.
This process of converting used items to new products is beneficial in many ways. First, it helps manage waste more effectively. Having to dump used silicone material on garbage sites creates an ugly environment. Secondly, recycling is cost-effective. This is because products made from recycled material will generally be cheaper.
They are washable
Kids are generally clumsy and unhygienic. This can lead to dirtying their pop-it toys and rendering them unsanitary. Washability comes in handy to solve this problem. Silicone is dishwasher-safe and can also be cleaned by hand easily. This feature makes it easy to clean the pop-it toys and prepare them for kids’ next playtime.
Safe For Young Kids
Safety is arguably one of the main reasons pop-it fidget toys are so popular among kids. In the production process, the material, nature, and use of these toys are taken into account to ensure a safe product for kids three years and older.
Pop-it fidget toys are durable
Silicone is a synthetic material. This means that its properties are fully determined by material specialists. One of the properties that these specialists focus on is durability — the ability to withstand a diverse set of stressors.
Durable technically means long-lasting. This is supported by high tensile strength, resistance to chemicals, and low weather ability. These properties have a direct positive impact on the pop-it fidget toys. To clarify, the pop-its are durable because they are made from silicone. Therefore, the user will be able to play with the toy for as long as the lifespan of silicone.
They are lightweight
As you can tell, most of these features primarily cater to children. Young children will definitely not have the energy required to handle heavy toys. If anything, a handheld toy is expected to be light in weight for practicability. Silicone is usually lightweight, which means the pop-it fidget toys will also be light.
The portability of a toy is also very essential. It allows for quick carry-ons while traveling, or using it outside the house. These toys are portable because the majority are usually small in size. This means they can fit in a bag, a pocket, or anything.
Portability can also have negative implications. For one, misplacing or losing the toys is quite possible when they are portable. Kids are known to leave their stuff anywhere and that can make them easy to misplace. However, since the toys are inexpensive, this would not stop parents from purchasing them for their kids.
Pop-it Toys are Flexible
Something that is flexible is regarded as easy to handle. Silicone has one of the best flexibility properties among elastomers. Therefore, the pop-it toys feel quite natural on the touch, and that adds to their usability. Kids love things that feel soft to the touch because of their soft hands and pop-its are the best compliment to this feature.
Are pop-it-fidget toys safe?
When buying toys, most parents and guardians are concerned primarily about the safety of the product itself. They think about safety even before knowing what material the product is made from. That means looking at the shape, design, use, recommendations, and so forth.
The direct and short answer to the question on safety is yes, pop-it fidget toys are safe. To understand how safe they are, we have to learn the safety features of these toys.
Safety Features of Pop-its
There are three main safety features of pop-it toys. They are;
Made From 100% Food-grade Silicone
Earlier, we discussed what food-grade silicone is and why it is vital for making these toys. As long as the material is safe for kitchen use, it is good enough to make toys that people spend so much time with. Food-grade silicone is highly acclaimed and regarded by product manufacturers, users, and the industry at large.
Toxicity levels need to be monitored when dealing with everyday consumer products like pop-it toys. More importantly, products that are marketed primarily for kids need to have the lowest if not completely toxin-free. Again, this feature is thanks to the non-toxic nature of the food-grade silicone.
Fully Certified by International Standards
Any product made using silicone has to fulfill certain requirements based on its use. Pop-it toy manufacturers avoid falling into the wrong side of regulations by choosing an already certified grade of silicone. This approach saves time and resources that would be required in the certification processes.
Designs of Pop-it Fidget Toys
When searched online, pop-it fidget toys show up in different designs. Some mimic nature while others are completely abstract. This gives us two categories of designs — custom and generic. The custom designs will usually be decided by the business that commissioned the products from the manufacturer. On the other hand, generic designs are decided by the manufacturer.
Silicone can be molded into any shape or size you want. The pattern or model of mold is first created using design software or manually. Then, this model is fed into a metal cutter and the cutter skillfully curves out a mold by referencing the model.
As you can imagine, the customization options are endless. You can draw an animal and it will be curved out into a mold. During the curing process, the silicone material will melt and spread out evenly on the mold to make a pop-it that looks like an animal.
Custom designs can be costly and time-consuming. However, the upside is that you will have a unique product for your audience. You can also patent a custom design such that no one else can use it without your consent. This makes custom designs quite valuable for brands that have established identities.
For generic designs, anyone can make them. They are sort of an industry standard. This means they are common and quite recognizable. If you think about a pop-it toy and a design and shape come to mind, you’re probably thinking of a generic design.
The practice of making generic designs is there to satisfy the huge demand for these toys. In other words, the majority of mass-produced pop-it toys are usually generic. For instance, the love shape or puppy shape is quite common among all manufacturers. No one can take credit or claim to own a generic design.
One drawback of generic designs is the lack of identity. Your brand will not be represented well with a generic design since there is no way to distinguish it from your competitors. One of the factors required for a brand to stand out is uniqueness. Therefore, you might want to consider custom over generic designs for your next pop-it fidget toy order.
Benefits of Pop-it Fidget Toys
We started by saying these toys are quite popular. Something we should have also mentioned is that they are popular because they are beneficial. They are known to have several benefits for kids and adults alike. Most of these benefits surpass the primary objective — to have fun.
Helps Kids with Autism, Stress, and Anxiety be more focused
Therapeutic properties of play have been studied extensively by scientists. One conclusion that was made is that play stimulates the brain to release a hormone known as dopamine. This hormone is associated with pleasure and reward neuro systems. This means they make the player feel a sense of achievement.
Children with autism, anxiety, and stress have a hard time interacting with the world around them. They are easily distracted by the activities around them. Therefore, they need a calming environment to function normally. Since the world is generally chaotic, using pop-it toys helps them take their mind off the situation and focus.
Learning institutions are encouraging the inclusion of pop-it toys in learning environments to help these challenged kids. This is meant to improve the situation and create a more inclusive environment for all.
Kids Develop Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are learned in childhood. These skills are described as the ability to coordinate the movement of the eye, fingers, and hands simultaneously. Kids use toys to pick up these skills and the brain executes them unconsciously.
The brain of a kid is quite primed to pick up new things fast. Therefore, the popping nature of the pop-it toys teaches them how to handle objects with accuracy. This is very essential in the developmental phase of a child.
Prevents Brain Degeneration
When the brain is left unstimulated for long, it starts to degenerate. The term ‘degenerate’ here is used to imply the decline in cognitive abilities.
The adult human brain faces stimulating situations at all times. This is because of the activities and involvement of the person. However, kids tend to be laid back. Such situations are detrimental to the cognitive health of the brain.
However, the brain of a young person is said to have a higher plasticity than that of an adult. This means it has the ability to form new neural pathways faster. As such, the degradation rate of the brain of a young will technically be lower than that of an adult.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Adults
Adults face stressful situations throughout their lives. If left unmanaged, this stress can lead to more unhealthy conditions such as anxiety attacks and depression. Luckily, fiddling with pop-its can help manage stress.
This works since playing with the toys reduces the heart rate and blood pressure that are common when stressed. The repetition of the popping sends a message to the nervous system reassuring it and eventually fostering a calming effect.
This explains why these toys aren’t marketed exclusively to kids but to people of all ages. It is discoveries like these that shape consumer culture and production.
Pop-it fidget toys are among the top inventions that have had the most positive impact on people of all ages, ethnicities, and cultures. Their benefits are instant and desirable to everyone. This article has explored the manufacturing process, features, and everything in between. Now, you have a better understanding of this innovative toy.