Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Karen. Karen Wonders, “Why do people like bubble wrap so much?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Karen!

It pads. It protects. And, best of all, it pops! That’s right, today we’re talking about everyone’s favorite packing material. Bubble wrap!

Have you ever had the pleasure of popping the small air-filled bubbles that make up a sheet of bubble wrap? If so, you know there’s something highly satisfying about it. Have you ever WONDERed why popping them is so much fun? Why do people like bubble wrap?

It turns out, there is some science behind the human connection to bubble wrap. Some experts believe it’s similar to the need to fidget. Do you click a pen or bounce your leg while you’re listening? Maybe you like to doodle in the corners of your notes or squeeze a stress ball. These small actions are all types of fidgeting. 

While some people think fidgeting is distracting, it’s actually been shown to increase attention span. It also helps with the retention of information. Similarly, a study revealed that people report feeling more alert after popping bubble wrap. The results also showed that people who popped bubble wrap were calmer afterward than those who did not. So, like fidgeting, popping bubble wrap may increase people’s ability to pay attention and remember what they learn.

Experts also say the enjoyment of bubble wrap may be tied to human evolution. In other words, your brain is wired to enjoy it! Early humans had to be on their toes all the time. They needed to be ready to run from a predator at a moment’s notice. Today, people spend a lot of time sitting, especially at school and at work. As a result, the body may build a lot of muscle tension from lack of movement. 

Popping bubble wrap helps relax that muscle tension. It reduces stress and anxiety.  In fact, studies have shown that, sometimes, the human brain receives feel-good chemicals like dopamine after popping bubble wrap. So that may be why it feels so satisfying!

With all these benefits, no one would ever want to change bubble wrap, right? Wrong! Sealed Air, the company that has made bubble wrap since the 1960s, recently developed a bubble wrap that doesn’t pop. Called iBubble Wrap, this new material rolled out in 2015. 

Does the unpoppable bubble wrap sound boring to you? Maybe so, but it has benefits for companies that pack and ship goods. The new iBubble Wrap is easier to store and is great for protecting packages. 

Don’t worry! Traditional bubble wrap is still on the market. And it has more uses than ever before! Besides shipping and popping, people continue to find ways to use this POPular material. Some people will roll out a sheet of bubble wrap to sit on at a picnic or wrap it around plants to keep them safe from the cold. It’s also used to insulate windows and grocery bags. Some people even lay a piece on their windshield to keep the frost away. 

Do you have any creative ways to use bubble wrap? Or would you rather just have fun popping it? Either way, this fun fidget item isn’t going away anytime soon. So pop away!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is super cool and really, really long!