The Surprising Science and History Behind Squishy Toys: Unraveling the Squishy Toy Phenomenon

The Surprising Science and History Behind Squishy Toys: Unraveling the Squishy Toy Phenomenon

The Surprising Science and History Behind Squishy Toys: Unraveling the Squishy Toy Phenomenon


From the moment you pick up a squishy toy, there's an almost irresistible urge to give it a good squeeze. Squishy toys, with their soft and pliable texture, have taken the world by storm, becoming a popular stress-reliever, fidget aid, and collectible item for people of all ages. But what exactly makes these toys so captivating? In this article, we will explore the history, science, and psychology behind squishy toys, as well as their therapeutic benefits and cultural impact.

A Brief History of Squishy Toys

While squishy toys may seem like a recent fad, their roots can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The first stress-relieving toys were likely simple balls made from natural materials like clay or animal bladders. Over the centuries, the concept evolved, and by the 20th century, we saw the emergence of foam rubber and gel-filled stress balls.

However, it wasn't until the 2010s that squishy toys truly took off. The trend began in Japan, where kawaii (cute) culture and the desire for collectible items combined to create the perfect environment for squishy toys to thrive. Featuring adorable designs and bright colors, squishy toys quickly gained popularity and spread to other countries, where they captured the hearts of millions.

The Science of Squish

Squishy toys are typically made from polyurethane foam, a material known for its flexibility and ability to return to its original shape after being deformed. The unique texture of polyurethane foam results from a chemical reaction between polyols and isocyanates, which creates a matrix of tiny bubbles filled with gas. These bubbles give the material its softness and elasticity, allowing it to be easily compressed and decompressed.

The Psychology Behind the Squish

The act of squeezing a squishy toy engages multiple senses simultaneously. The tactile sensation of the soft foam, the visual appeal of its cute design, and even the scent (some squishy toys are infused with fragrance) can all contribute to a sense of satisfaction and relaxation.

Research has shown that tactile stimulation can reduce stress and anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our "rest and digest" response. Additionally, the repetitive motion of squeezing and releasing a squishy toy can serve as a grounding technique, helping to distract from negative thoughts and emotions.

Therapeutic Benefits of Squishy Toys

Due to their stress-relieving properties, squishy toys have found a place in various therapeutic settings. They can serve as valuable tools for individuals with anxiety, ADHD, autism, or sensory processing disorders, providing a calming and grounding outlet for excess energy and emotions.

Squishy toys can also help improve fine motor skills, hand strength, and dexterity, making them useful for occupational therapy and rehabilitation. Furthermore, their cute and engaging designs can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and disability, promoting acceptance and understanding.

Cultural Impact and the Squishy Toy Community

Squishy toys have not only become a staple in popular culture, but they have also fostered a thriving community of collectors and enthusiasts. Social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram feature countless unboxing videos, reviews, and tutorials on customizing and repairing squishy toys. This online presence has helped to create a global community of squishy toy lovers who bond over their shared passion.


Squishy toys have come a long way from their humble beginnings, transforming from simple stress-relief tools into a cultural phenomenon with numerous benefits. The science behind their satisfying texture, combined with their psychological