Let’s chat about the Lifecycle of a Fidget Spinner and Five Alternatives to Gifting Fad Toys.

As Christmas fast approaches and adults the world over look for cheap stocking fillers to gift to their children and children’s friends, I thought it was a great opportunity to chat about fad toys and the impact they have on the environment.

In particular, I wanted to check in on the fad toy of 2017… The Fidget Spinner.

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A couple of months ago I was contacted by a student in Launceston Tasmania. Chloe was keen to research the environmental impact of fidget spinners and had hit a roadblock right at the start of the project (as there was little information online). She was keen for some ideas for how she could conduct her research and she reached out to me.

I gave her some pointers and encouraged her to survey local families and extrapolate the results based on population data for kids in a certain age group within Australia.

A few weeks later she contacted me with her findings and was happy for me to share them with you.

No doubt many of you are parents or aunties or uncles, or you may even have younger siblings who have all latched on to the fidget spinner craze, and before that, the fidget cube craze of 2017.

If it wasn’t that this year, it could’ve been Shopkins last year, or it could’ve been Loom Bands the year before that… basically whatever was the fad toy at the time.

What Are Fad Toys?

Fad toys are toys that come in from nowhere and they disappear just as quickly. Every kid wants one and they seem to be discarded a couple of months afterwards and forgotten about.

We’re talking millions and millions of fad toys that are purchased every year that are discarded months, or even weeks, after purchase.

When Was The Fidget Spinner Invented?

Chloe found that the first spinner was invented in 1993 by a lady called Catherine Hettinger. She invented it because she wanted to come up with a way to occupy herself and others, but she couldn’t get any toy companies interested in marketing her product. She had a patent on the idea, but she let it go about 12 years ago in 2005.

This year, 2017, toy company Hasbro decided to manufacture the product, and obviously the rest is history.

The Fidget Spinner became a global craze with children.

Sensory toys in general have been hot this year, for kids with and without sensory issues, and every kid has wanted a Fidget Spinner.

Chloe was really trying to find how many fidget spinners the average child in Australia has, and then connect that to how many children in Australia there are in a certain age group. She also wanted to discover whether or not all these kids are still playing with their fidget spinners.

She sought to survey a group of 40 families and got just over 30 responses in return. Of the families she surveyed, they all had children in between the ages of four and 15. The average number of children in a family was 3.3, and most children had two fidget spinners each.

Of course, some children had more fidget spinners and others had less, but that was the average. Of the 30 families she surveyed, 27 had at least one fidget spinner and only three families had none at all. So 10% of the families surveyed didn’t have a fidget spinners at all.

The family with the highest number of fidget spinners was a family that had four children, and she reported that they had 25 fidget spinners! That’s about over six fidget spinners per child, or maybe the adults had some too, who knows?

She also found, really interestingly, that no families had thrown out any of the fidget spinners, but almost all of them said that they were now in the bottom of a drawer, and they were no longer played with by their children. Not surprisingly, just a few months after being purchased, the fidget spinners were no longer the toy of choice. They’d come in to the household, occupied the children for a few days or weeks, and been tossed aside.

Chloe then went and did her maths, and she extrapolated the data.

I know if you work in the statistics or science field you might say, “Well this isn’t really statistically significant. A group of 30 odd families, and extrapolate that out to the millions of families in Australia.” I get that, but this is the data that she was working with.

How Many Fidget Spinners Have Been Sold In Australia?

She found that there’s about over 3.3 million children in Australia aged between four and 15 years. Based on her survey findings that there were two fidget spinners per child, she estimated that there was approximately 6.2 million fidget spinners sold in Australia this year; most of them not played with anymore.

In fact, Chloe then worked out that if these fidget spinners were laid next to each other in a line, with their approximate length of 7 cm, she estimated that they would reach from Launceston, down to Hobart, and back to Launceston again. Those of you who don’t live in Tassie, Hobart to Launceston is around about a two hour drive, couple of hundred kilometres. If you lay them all out in a row, it would about 400 km long, or take you four hours to drive.

Chloe also found that the fidget spinners are typically made from plastic and metal. These are components that when tossed out, they just don’t break down in land fill. So you could say that there’s been well over 6.2 million fidget spinners sold this year that will most likely end up in waste and will sit in a land fill, and never ever break down.

Of course, Chloe was pretty alarmed by that, so she said next time she goes to the shops, she’s really going to think twice about buying any toys, and especially about buying fad toys. She said she couldn’t get over how fast the fad had faded, even though it only started earlier this year, and that most of the fidget spinners were just disused.

I’m really, really proud of Chloe and the work that she did, but also how it made her look at her life and the toys that she plays with. It’s going to change her behaviour moving forward, and obviously the behaviour of some of her friends too when she shares her findings.

What do we do as parents or aunties or uncles, or when your child gets invited to all those birthday parties, or you’re hosting a birthday party and the pressure’s on to produce little goody bags, stocking fillers, all these small, little gifts of about $10 value that you’ve got to chip in?

I want to talk about some alternatives now because that issue is real isn’t it? Let’s look at five alternatives to gifting fad toys to the children in your life.

5 Alternatives to Gifting Fad Toys

1. Gift an Experience

If you’ve followed me for some time, you will already know that the number one thing that I like to gift when you’re expected to give a physical gift is to gift an experience. For kids, this can be a movie ticket or a zoo ticket. I know they’re a little bit more expensive than a movie ticket, but you can also gift tickets to a water park or a pool or a water slide playground or an indoor skate park. There’s so many indoor play areas as well.

I know movie tickets these days are around about $10 each, so they fall into that price point, so if you’re going to gift a birthday present to a child’s friend, a movie ticket’s a great idea.

2. Make a Gift

I think back to one of my son’s birthday parties a couple of years ago where he had an Octonaut party. In the goody bag, I always try and just fill it with wholesome food like some wholefood, or something I make myself.

For this party I made some biscuits cut into fish shapes, so they were fish biscuits, which went really well with the Octonaut theme. No one complained. In fact, they all loved them, and so many of the parents said, “Thanks Laura. Thanks for not throwing heaps of cheap plastic toys in there that just break and just go in the bin.”

You don’t have to make biscuits. Depending on the age of the children, you can make some play dough or a craft activity. It doesn’t really matter, just let your imagination run wild, and either make something, or give them the tools so they can make their own.

Octonaut Fish Biscuits

3. Gift Something That Grows

A plant is a fabulous gift.

It might be a herb or one of those little fly catcher plants. In fact, my son Matthew was gifted one of them for Christmas once by a family friend, and he loved watching it. A fly would land on the plant, and then the plant would open up and capture the fly. For a young boy, a gift like that is better than a toy. They love it!

Most plants like herbs or a small tomato bush are around the $10 price point as well – perfect!

4. Gift Eco Stationary

Another alternative, not so much for the fad toys, but all the funky plastic stationary that’s popular with school aged kids, is eco-stationary. There’s one business in South Australia that I particularly love, and it’s called Earth Greetings.

You can purchase eco-highlighter pencils and little pads, and they’re all printed on 100% post-consumer paper waste, with vegetable based inks. They’re a great alternative to standard notes and note pads and textas.

5. Don’t Gift

Last, but not least, the fifth alternative to gifting a fad toy is actually not to give a physical gift.

At some point in time we need to question our constant obsession with giving and receiving stuff.

Stuff that we don’t need and stuff that doesn’t last for long.

Stuff that’s not used after a few days.

Stuff that breaks or gets tossed aside to, more often than not, end up in landfill where it never breaks down.

Question the tradition and say, “Okay, we’re having this gathering and maybe we don’t gift a bag of all these little cheap, flimsy, crappy toys. Maybe we’ll just spend our time together and enjoy our company and be present in the moment, rather than hanging out for this bag of crap at the end of a party.”

You don’t have to be a party pooper, you can do this in a nice way and word people up beforehand.

You can all agree as parents in a friendship group of children that you’re just not going to do these sort of things.

Have the conversation.

Or maybe you just gift one quality item, rather than filling the whole Santa sack or Christmas stocking full of cheap, fad toys.

If you do buy the fad toy, such as the “next” fidget spinner, don’t buy it in every colour, in every pattern. Instead, recognise that it’s a fad toy, and maybe just give or buy one.

You don’t need to have the entire range or four or five of them per child.

Just get one.

But I’d really like you to just have a think about it and say, “Is there some of these traditions that we can question or that we can get rid of?” in your family or your group of friends.

Ask the question, have the conversation, change your behaviour.


I hope this post has got you thinking about what sort of presents you’re going to buy for the children in your lives this Christmas. I may have scared you off fidget spinners, I may not have, but who knows? There’s probably some new fad toy in the shops right now for this holiday season with marketing all over the place to try and make you buy it, or all over YouTube where your kids see all these other kids unboxing those gifts (I know my boys LOVE those clips!).

You can pick up my free Seasons Greenings eGuide which has got some awesome tips for you to help you have a cleaner, greener Christmas.

All the best with your Christmas shopping or Christmas making or Christmas growing. Whatever presents you choose to give this Christmas, my challenge to you is to try and make it a fad toy free Christmas. In doing that, you’ll be taking one massive step forward to help make green mainstream.