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The History Of Fidget Toys And Where Fidget Toys Came From - Antsy Labs

The History Of Fidget Toys And Where Fidget Toys Came From

From the ubiquitous Fidget Cube and fidget spinner to the countless inventive DIY fidget toys, fidgeting has become a part of the culture, and a part of our daily lives. 

(Especially if you happened to invent one of the most well-known fidget toys, the original Fidget Cube!)

Many of us play with fidget toys in class, at work, or simply at home to alleviate stress and anxiety. Still others make their fidget toys themselves – or make them to share with the world.

But did you know that the idea of fidgeting is not a new phenomenon? Fidget toys are actually a tale as old as time, and have been seen in a variety of forms from cultures and regions around the world. 

Though we’re of course incredibly proud of our invention, the original Fidget Cube, we recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of fidgeting giants. That’s why we’re taking a moment today to explore the rich history of fidget toys, from ancient times to the modern day, and uncover the fascinating origins of these beloved gadgets.

If you're looking for the fidget toy that sparked the global fidget phenomenon, check out the original Fidget Cube, invented right here by us.

9 Fidget Toys From History

Worry Stones

Worry stones are smooth, flat stones that are rubbed between the fingers to relieve stress and anxiety. 

They have been found in cultures as far back as ancient Greece, where people believed that rubbing the stones could soothe the nerves and promote relaxation.

Greece doesn’t have a monopoly on the idea, as worry stones have also been found in Ireland, Tibet, and with Native American tribes.

Baoding Balls

Chinese stress balls, also known as Baoding balls, are small metal balls that are rotated in the hand to improve dexterity, relieve stress, and promote relaxation. 

They originated in Baoding, a city in northern China, around 3,500 years ago. They were originally used in traditional Chinese medicine to stimulate the acupressure points in the hands. 

Today, they are used as a form of stress relief and exercise (though if you’re a parent of a kid who’s just discovered the clinking sound they make, you may not find them very stress relieving at all).

Prayer Beads

Prayer beads are used in many religious traditions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. 

They are held and manipulated as a form of meditation or contemplative prayer, with each bead representing a prayer or mantra. 


Kendama is a traditional Japanese toy that consists of a wooden handle with a ball attached by a string. 

The object of the game is to perform various tricks by catching the ball on different parts of the handle. 

Though its origins are debated, it became popular in Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it soon spread throughout the world.

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's ladder is a classic toy consisting of a chain of wooden blocks that can be flipped back and forth to create an undulating visual effect. 

Though the toy itself is named after a biblical event, it’s believed to have originated in the 1800s. 

The earliest review came from a Scientific American article in 1889, calling the toy “very illusive” before breaking down how the toy actually works and ruining all the fun.

Spinning Tops

Spinning tops are simple toys that have been popular for centuries. They developed independently in a number of regions, with some being found in China from around 1250 BC.

They are often used as a form of stress relief or as a game, with the object being to keep the top spinning for as long as possible – or, in the case of Christopher Nolan movies, to see if you are in a dream world or reality.


The abacus is a counting tool that has been used for thousands of years. Though it consists of beads that are moved along rods to perform arithmetic operations, it’s not all addition and subtraction. It’s also a little bit soothing to move the beads back and forth!

The abacus originated in ancient China, and was later adopted by many other cultures, including the Greeks, Romans, and Japanese. Today, the abacus is still used in some parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

Rubik's Cube

The Rubik's Cube is a classic puzzle toy that was invented in the 1970s by Hungarian sculptor Ernő Rubik. 

The cube consists of small cubes that can be rotated to create different patterns and combinations. It is popular around the world, despite it being impossible to solve unless you rearrange all the stickers (my experience may be slightly different than yours).


Puzzles have been popular for centuries as a way to keep the mind active and engaged. It’s believed that London cartographer John Spilsbury produced the first "jigsaw" puzzle around 1760. 

From jigsaw puzzles to crossword puzzles, these challenging activities have been found in many different cultures and regions around the world crafted from wood, stone, paper, and other objects.

2 Modern Fidget Toys From Antsy Labs

The Fidget Cube

Fidget Cube is the quintessential modern fidget toy, which just so happened to be invented and launched in 2016 by two impossibly handsome brothers from Colorado. 😉

For the uninitiated, Fidget Cube is a small, cube-shaped device that has a variety of buttons, switches, and other tactile features that can be clicked, flipped, rolled, and spun with the fingers.

Today, Fidget Cube exists as the most popular enduring fidget toy, and we highly recommend buying it from its original inventors!

The Fidget Spinner

The fidget spinner is a modern fidget toy, which became available in the early 2010s. After the launch of Fidget Cube went viral and sparked the global fidgeting phenomenon, fidget spinners began to ride the intense, new wave of interest in fidgeting.

A typical fidget spinner consists of a central ball bearing that is held between two or three prongs, which can be spun around with the fingers.

Following in the footsteps of Fidget Cube, fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-relieving toy for people with ADHD and anxiety, quickly becoming popular among people of all ages – and it’s even more delightful when you get your fidget spinner in the color of your choice, like watermelon, stained glass window, or water paint art.

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