TikTok’s latest trend explained: Lato-lato toy

The toy is infamously known for its “clack-clack” sound when swinged in an up and down motion.

Seif Umar

Certified football, Formula One and teh tarik addict.

Published: 9 May 2023, 5:33 PM

Clack, Clack, Clack, Clack, Clack. 

This sound was a constant feature every time I scrolled through TikTok over the past two weeks, with my ‘For You Page’ dominated by videos of children swinging a toy in an up-and-down motion. 

The rhythmic sound annoyed me each time I heard it. While I thought I could escape it by closing the TikTok app on my phone, I heard it again during my visit to the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar

That’s when I learnt that it was called lato-lato, TikTok’s latest trend.


Lato-lato is made up of two plastic balls connected by a string and produces a “clacking” sound when players swing it up and down. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/DINI QISTINA


Similar to the kendama (a wooden toy made up of a handle and a ball connected by a string) from 2015, and the fidget spinner (a spinning toy intended as a stress reliever) from in 2017, lato-lato is the latest trendy toy. 

My curiosity amid my annoyance got the better of me, leading me into the rabbit hole of lato-lato. Through my research, I found some interesting facts about the toy.

1. Lato-lato is just one of the toy’s many names

According to the Borneo Post, lato-lato is derived from the Buginese (people of southern Celebes (Sulawesi) in Indonesia) word, latto-latto, which translates to “making clacking sounds”. 

It also means side in Italian, which is also likely to explain the direction of the lato-lato balls swinging sideways.

In Indonesia, some of lato-lato’s other names include katto-katto, etek-etek, nok-nok, and toki-toki, which are possibly derived from the sounds the toy makes when played.


Internationally, it is also referred to as clackers, click-clacks, knockers and Ker-Bangers. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/SEIF UMAR

2. Lato-lato originated from the United States

A common misconception about lato-lato is that it originated from Indonesia. 

However, according to various Indonesian news outlets, lato-lato actually originated from the United States, where it is known as “clackers”.

It first appeared in the 1960s, before gaining popularity in the 1970s.

3. It was deemed dangerous when first manufactured

In the 1970s, when the toy first became a trend in the United States, the balls were made from either tempered glass or acrylic.

This meant that the toy would sometimes shatter and produce shards when hit during play. The handles would also break due to wear and tear. 

Based on the Washington Post, the toy was so dangerous that the American Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a set of regulations, which requires newly manufactured clackers to pass durability tests before they are sold.


These days, modern lato-latos are made with plastics that help minimise breakage. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/SEIF UMAR

4. Lato-lato has been played by famous politicians

Lato-lato is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, including famous politicians like the current Indonesian President, Joko Widido.

In a Facebook video, Mr Widodo was seen playing with a lato-lato during a village visit.

His style of playing the lato-lato was well received by the fellow villagers, as most of them were recording their president with delight as he played the current most popular toy in the country.

Another politician that has tried playing with lato-lato is Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong.  

During his visit to the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, Mr Wong learnt from passionate lato-lato players about how the toy is played.

@lawrencewongst Trying out lato-lato with some young friends at the Geylang Serai Bazaar. It’s harder than it looks! #geylangseraibazaar #latolato #singapore ♬ AIYA SUSANTI DRXML REMIX - DRXML

Mr Wong described his experience playing lato-lato as “harder than it looks”.

5. The toy is best played in a group setting

When the lato-lato went viral on TikTok, the lato-lato challenge also gained popularity. The challenge is best done in a group setting, with a minimum of two players, and the objective is for players to be able to get their lato-lato to ‘clack’ in rhythm for as long as possible. 

The challenge even featured during the red carpet premiere of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantamania, after a reporter from Indonesian news outlet detikcom asked the cast to participate in the challenge.

Actors Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Jonathan Majors (Kang the Conqueror) and director Peyton Reed were featured in the challenge, with Reed emerging as the winner. 

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