We can thank TikTok for the latest toy in the fidget craze, which can be played as a strategy game or just used to keep kids busing during e-learning.
If you’ve been on TikTok in the last little while, a colourful, bubbly little toys have probably been popping up on your For You page in between posts about those folded tortillas and dances to the latest Olivia Rodrigo hit. They’re showing up as Instagram and Facebook ads, too. They’re called bubble popping toys and they’re becoming as popular with kids as fidget spinners were a few years ago—only Today’s Parent editors and parent testers say they’re unarguably better.
Popping toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, but are always lined with rows of silicone bubbles that are surprisingly satisfying to pop. They offer a similar satisfaction to popping bubble wrap—but unlike the kind our kids scavenge from delivery boxes, they never runs out of pops.
They aren’t just for fidgeting though. They double as a tic-tac-toe style strategy game. The concept is simple: Each player can pop as many bubbles as they’d like on their turn in any row on the board. Then, they pass it on to a friend who does the same. The key is to strategize throughout the game so you’re not left with the last bubble to pop. Once the round is over, simply flip the board over and start again. It’s a lot more fun and challenging than it sounds—one parent toy tester admits she’s lost to her school-aged niece an embarrassing number of times.
“It’s a great way to practice strategy skills,” says another. “We’re definitely hanging onto this one. No batteries needed. It’s small and fits anywhere. Great for travelling or for the car.”
Parents say that popping toys can be a saviour for kids having to endure e-learning. As hard as teachers try, they can’t offer the same stimulation or attention that they’d be able to give a student in person, and for kids, the sound of their toys calling from the next room is often too loud to ignore. For many, having something to do with their hands is a helpful tool for staying focused.
“This toy is incredibly simple and smart,” adds one of our parent testers. “It’s very tactile and satisfying as a fidget toy.”
Fidget toys have been wildly popular for school-aged kids since 2017, when fidget spinners entered the scene. Since then, a variety have come and gone, like fidget cubes, squishy balls, fuzzy rings, tangle puzzles and more. Bubble popping toys are likely to have a bit more staying power since they double as a two-player game. You can find bubble popping toys at stores like Showcase and Mastermind Toys, starting around $10.