Over the last couple of years, fidget toys like the pop it have exploded in popularity, becoming a surprise sensation and cultural phenomenon. These small silicone toys that make a popping sound when pushed inside out seem simple in concept. However, they have resonated so strongly due to the myriad benefits and uses that pop its and similar sensory toys provide, especially for focus, stress relief, and more.
Providing Therapeutic Stimulation
The primary purpose and benefit of toys like the pop it is to provide a positive sensory stimulating experience for the user. The tactile, flexible nature of the toy along with the snapping sound and sensation it makes when pressed and popped back out provides therapeutic stimulation. This can serve several functions:
One of the main reasons both children and adults have gravitated towards these toys is their effectiveness at relieving stress and anxiety. The repetitive motion of pressing the buttons along with the satisfying pops release feel-good endorphins in the brain. As the user focuses their attention on the sensory experience of the toy, it brings a calming, centering effect similar to meditation or breathing exercises. This makes pop its an easily accessible and healthy alternative to nervous habits like nail biting or leg bouncing.
Along with stress relief, the stimulatory nature of these fidget toys also serves as a focus aid for many users. The toys give restless hands and minds something to occupy themselves with, providing a positive outlet for excess energy. Kids with conditions like ADD/ADHD that make concentrating difficult can beneficially channel their hyperactivity into popping the toy. This allows them to focus their attention better on tasks like homework or classwork. Even adults find that absent-mindedly manipulating a pop it during long work days helps boost their attention and productivity.
Fine Motor Skill Development
The hands-on interaction required to depress and pop the toy back out again also helps build fine motor skills and dexterity in the hands and fingers. Occupational therapists often recommend fidget toys like pop its to help strengthen mobility and coordination in the hands after injuries. For kids still developing these abilities, expertly maneuvering the toy provides useful developmental benefits as well. Squeezing and manipulating the toy helps build strength and skills that aid in tasks requiring precision like writing, buttoning clothes, or using utensils.
Sensory Processing Aid
For neurodivergent individuals, particularly those on the autism spectrum, pop its serve as effective sensory processing aids. Many with autism experience hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to certain tactile stimuli in their environment. Fidget toys give them an appropriate outlet they can control to regulate their sensory experience. Kids who are hypersensitive can be overstimulated by loud sounds or too much excitement, while those who are hyposensitive may crave more tactile stimulation due to underarousal. In both cases, the mix of textures, sounds, color, and manipulate parts the pop it offers meets these sensory needs for many on the spectrum.
An Accessible, Discreet Calming Aid
Unlike many other stress management or focusing tools, pop its provide the benefit of being highly accessible, portable, and discreet. Their small, toy-like appearance makes them less conspicuous for kids and adults to carry around and use as needed in school, the workplace, or in public. In today’s classroom environment, teachers are generally accepting of fidget toys being used quietly at students’ desks where they may frown on a student conspicuously doing full breathing exercises or mediations in the middle of class. Their simplicity and ease of use also makes them affordable and approachable for all ages and abilities. Parents don’t have to spend time teaching their child intricate emotional regulation rituals or techniques before they can benefit from the toy’s calming effects.
A Fun, Engaging Alternative to Bad Habits
Part of pop its’ success comes from providing stimulation-seeking individuals an engaging alternative for focus and calm that feels playful rather than punitive or boring. They satisfy the human urge many have to keep our hands and minds occupied but in a much healthier, more socially acceptable way than nervous habits like skin picking, hair pulling, nail biting, and pen clicking. Their bright colors and satisfying pops make interacting with the toy fun and enjoyable compared to forcing oneself to sit criss-cross applesauce breathing slowly. This makes children and adults much more likely to voluntarily replace bad habits with this harmless, discreet substitute.
Not Just a Fad – Here to Stay
While no one can say for sure whether pop its will remain the dominant fidget toy as more novelty options come and go, experts believe these helpful tools are not just a passing fad. Occupational therapists and researchers have noted sensory toys like pop its serve a real developmental and therapeutic purpose, especially for neurodivergent groups. Their versatility and effectiveness for stress relief, concentration, motor skill development, sensory stimulation, and habit control explains why they became so ubiquitous. Even after the initial pop it craze fades, new generations will continue turning to similar sensory toys for these same self-regulatory benefits vital for function and growth rather than just diversion or entertainment.
So while they may have become a viral sensation and hot commodity due to their satisfying nature and novelty factor, pop it toys are clearly much more than just a silly desk distraction. For many segments of the population, these unassuming silicone gadgets provide meaningful mental health support, cognitive and physical boosts, and therapeutic sensory relief that will keep them popular long after TikTok moves on to the next big thing. Their versatile benefits and applications make pop its and similar manipulatives helpful self-regulation tools for both able-bodied and disabled, young students and older workers alike.