Blake Branch, 12, holds two of the many fidget spinners made by his family-owned business, Tech Machining USA in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Fidget spinners, the new weapons of mass distraction

It’s the weapon of mass distraction.

What’s up with that?

Fidget spinners.

Little twirling gadgets that spin around a ball bearing. The toy craze that’s making everybody crazy.

Kids are begging for them. Teachers are confiscating them. Schools have banned them. Stores have sold out.

All they do is spin. That’s it. Really. That’s all.

It has all the makings of a perfect toy: Under $10. No power cords. No batteries. Entertaining. Easy. Quiet, relatively.

Parents should be overjoyed.

Spin away bored, restless energy. Do tricks. It’s like a new-age yo-yo without a string or a pinwheel without a stick. Hold it between two fingers or balance it on one. Repeat.

Unlike fad toys such as Pokémon and Furby, there isn’t one maker raking in the loot. A lot of companies are cranking out these things, which come in many colors and materials. It’s because they are preposterously simple to manufacture — it’s basically a ball bearing and a few swiveling blades.

Stores can’t keep up with the demand. I went to eight places. I got lucky at Walgreens because a new box of $5.99 spinners had just arrived. The package had a choking hazard warning for children under 6. The metal bearing popped out when my 31-year-old son dropped it on the floor while excitedly doing tricks. He didn’t put it in his mouth, like the 10-year-old Texas girl who made national news last week when she got the bearing stuck in her esophagus and lived to be famous in social media.

Can’t find a spinner? There are apps for a virtual fix.

Fidget devices such as spinners are nothing new. They’ve been marketed as a tool — not a toy — for children with ADHD, anxiety and autism to promote calm and concentration.

Suddenly everybody wants one.

Forbes magazine called them a must-have office toy for 2017. For sure, it’s an alternative to your annoying nail biting, pen-clicking, finger-drumming, jimmy-legging cubicle mate.

Maybe someone needs to invent one for feet.

The adult fidget spinners are smaller, sleeker versions of the ones kids are flicking. And they cost more. Online catalog prices for Flyaway Toys, a component of Peregrine Manufacturing in Lynnwood, range from about $35 to $150 for spinners in aluminum to titanium.

Over the weekend, “Saturday Night Live” took premium spinners a step further, lampooning the trend with a Cartier ad for a 14-karat gold, diamond-encrusted fidget spinner — for women.

Grown-ups can get away with playing with the fidget widgets at work.

Students must abide by school rules of toy versus tool.

“Some schools have notified families of school policies against bringing toys to school,” said Everett Public Schools spokeswoman Leanna Albrecht. “However, some students may use such devices as part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan with the schools,” which outline specialized instruction or special accommodations to ensure students’ academic success.

Julie Glafke, a literacy teacher at Olympic View Middle School in Mukilteo, called the spinners “a mixed blessing.”

“If it is helping you stay focused and not distracting others and it’s a tool to help you engage, then we’re all for it. But when it distracts others and distracts you from your learning, then it’s a toy and we take them,” Glafke said. “There are teachers who are frustrated with them.”

A blog by a sixth-grade teacher on the other side of the nation went viral after she dubbed fidget spinners “helicopters of distraction.” As she put it: “Eff. These. Spinners. Seriously.”

Stanwood mom Tasha Branch bought some plastic spinners on the internet for her jittery son Blake, 12, who is homeschooled part of the day. That turned into a business venture.

“He came up with, ‘Well, why don’t we make them?’ ” she said.

After all, they have the tools on hand at the family-owned business, Tech Machining USA in Mount Vernon.

“We jumped into this,” Branch said. “We did designs to figure what felt good to everybody’s hand. We gave them to friends, teachers, therapists, counselors, lots of people.”

They started marketing the spinners in late April under the brand name “WooSah,” a meditative term used in the movie “Bad Boys 2” to calm down and chill out.

Their palm-sized aluminum and metal spinners come in three models and sell for $20 and up. The anodized blue-and-green Seahawks spinner with two prongs is $25.

“Our two main demographics are adult males and kids,” she said.

Blake, who carries a spinner in each pocket, said it helps. “I don’t wiggle as much,” he said.

Blake assists with round one of testing the WooSah inventory, but sometimes he takes it a step further.

“His (spinner) has been dropped off a two-story building onto concrete. It has been run over,” his mom said. “He wants to blow it up, but we don’t want to set a bad example.”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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