It’s 3:05pm on a Friday — the calm before the storm.
Bradley Merriel had ordered in a delivery of Pop It toys to his store, Anime at Abbotsford, in Sydney’s inner-west.
He’d told kids asking about them he’d put up a blackboard on the street to let them know they’d arrived.
“At six minutes past three, it sounded like I was in Spain with the running of the bulls,” he said.
“All I could hear was feet, then all I could see was legs, shoes in my shop.
“We sold 92 Pop Its in 10 minutes.”
The toy itself, which Mr Merriel sells for $7.95, seems unremarkable — when held in the hand, it feels like reusable and colourful plastic bubble wrap.
But it has gained enormous popularity on TikTok, with the hashtag #PopIt amassing more than one billion views.
Accounts made by people playing with the toy have more than tens of thousands of followers each.
Mr Merriel said a number of Australian manufacturers were starting to make variations of the toy, to cater to the demand in shops like his.
“All the kids, when they come in, they pop it and they’re like ahhhh,” he said.
“I’ve got school teachers coming in and asking for them.”
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Sandra Mortimer, senior lecturer in occupational therapy at Flinders University, said the draw of the toy had been its simplicity.
“We’re sort of more commonly used to kids with sensory challenges, or developmental delays or difficulties using these sorts of sensory tools,” she said.
“What I think is really interesting with this one is that it is really appealing to kids without those challenges.
“It’s kind of got some broad appeal.
“I think there is something particularly unique about a fidget toy and this one has the components … it’s really about that ability to sort of touch, squeeze, interact with the toy using your hands.”
Ms Mortimer said toys like this could be useful to try to “tune out” sensory inputs.
“A fidget toy can really help a child through their sense of touch and their use of that toy to help them regulate themselves,” she said.
“To give that extra tactile input through their hands, that helps them calm their sensory system more generally.
“That’s really important to be able to achieve what we call a calm and alert state; where we feel good in our mind and our body, and where we’re best placed to be able to learn and relax and take in information.”
Kids at the toy store said they enjoyed the feeling of playing with the toy and wanted one after seeing their friends play with them in class or in the schoolyard.
Mr Merriel said he expected the popularity of the toy to last a bit more than a month.
“With the Loom Bands and with the Fidget Spinners, both of them went for about five or six weeks,” he said.
“I see the same thing here, maybe it might go seven, we’ll see.”