A Palestinian boy hurls stones to Israeli police during clashes in Shu'afat


By Eddie Dvir

By now everyone has either heard about the craze that has taken the globe by storm, the fidget spinner. Thousands of middle aged kids are spinning them in school, on the street or at your local shul.

Star of David fidget spinner available on Etsy 

The fidget spinner is simple little colorful device that has a stable middle and a disc with three paddles that can be spun, much like a ceiling fan. The result is supposed to be relaxing and satisfying, and really good spinners can perform tricks or keep them spinning for minutes at a time. Many have heard that the fidget spinners were originally invented to help children with anxiety and attention disorders like ADD, have something to occupy their hands with to help relieve anxiety and improve concentration.

Fidget spinners are the toy children are asking their parents for. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

While they were marketed that way before they became a craze, the inventor of the fidget spinner, Hettinger,  has revealed to TIME magazine that the origins of the fidget spinner were actually to prevent Palestinian children from throwing stones at Israeli police.

According to MONEY Magazine:

“When she notices a problem, she tries to imagine a toy or device that can remedy it.

So when she saw young boys throwing rocks at police officers and people walking past them while visiting her sister in Israel, her wheels started turning. She started brainstorming devices that could distract young children and provide them with a soothing toy to play with.

Arab children throwing rocks.

First, she thought of a soft rock that kids could throw. But then she tossed that idea aside, still thinking about other options when she returned to her home in Orlando, Fla. It was there that she eventually developed the idea that would become the original fidget spinner  more than two decades before the wildly popular device became the must-have toy for both kids and adults this year.

A Palestinian boy hurls stones to Israeli police during clashes in Shu’afat

It started as a way of promoting peace, and then I went on to find something that was very calming.  Hettinger, now in her 60s, told MONEY of the fidget spinners, which she first began imagining back in the 1980s.”

Hettinger tried to sell her invention to toy manufacturers, but they all were not interested. Hasbro didn’t pick up the spinners, sending her a rejection letter after testing it on consumers.

One may  assume that Hettinger is making millions off her invention, but the sad truth is that she isn’t  making a dime off fidget spinner.

After Hettinger struggled for years to get a manufacturer to produce the fidget spinner, she ran into money problems and couldn’t even afford the $400 fee to renew her patent and was forced to let it expire. Now anyone can make fidget spinners, and they don’t have pay Hettinger anything. The company that sent her a rejection letter 20 years ago, Hasbro, now sells the fidget spinners and makes millions off them.

You would think Hettinger would be angry about this, but she said she is not upset at all about the sudden popularity and others capitalizing off of her invention. In fact, she’s excited about it. “Maybe if it was some kind of exploitative product like a new style of cigarettes and my only motivation was to make money, I’d have a different attitude,” Hettinger said. But I am just thrilled.”

Well there you have it folks.The fidget spinner didn’t bring forth peace in the Middle East, it didn’t make Catherine Hettinger a millionaire, but it will be around for quite some time causing millions of children and adults to spin till their hearts are content.

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