Great Inventions or Passing Crazes? Loom Bands, Rubik's Cubes, Space-Hoppers, Hula-Hoops & more
Definition of Craze (noun)
An enthusiasm for a particular activity or object which appears suddenly and achieves widespread but short-lived popularity
Crazes come and go. People love them or hate them. Most of all, many people moan about them, decry them or treat those who follow them as sheep or nutcases.
Is there any sense to them? Indeed, are they just crazes or do they last? Do we benefit from any of them?
I got to know about Loom Bands in early 2014; it was then the latest craze in Britain, as well as in some of Europe it seems. It is the making of bracelets, necklaces, rings and anything else the imagination can come up with, out of small rubber bands called Loom Bands.
The bands are then woven together by using... a loom! Alternatively, your fingers can be treated as the loom. Versatile, eh?
The rubber bands come in all colours, plain or multi, matt, fluorescent or sparkly and even in popular football colours.
I could hear many people muttering, ‘It’s just a craze. The kids’ll be spending all their pocket money on stupid little rubber bands. Waste of money.’
But think about it for a second.
Is this a Craze?
When I saw them, I thought so. Just another craze that school children have caught onto and everyone is following because it’s the thing to do. Another money-making enterprise.
We were looking at packets of them outside a local shop. A burly security guard heard us talking about them, sidled up and said, ‘They’re really easy to make. Everyone’s doing it. Look my granddaughter made this one’, indicating a black and white bracelet on his hairy, tattooed arm. Lovely! I told him I was amazed what one could learn from a security guard.
I liked the colours, bought a couple of packets and mentioned them to my 13 year old granddaughter. It transpired she had some, was already an expert at making bracelets, as was her mother, with three year old sister rapidly catching up! So much for me thinking I was one step ahead for a change. Why don’t they keep me informed?
Soon after, I bought a loom and am learning how to use it. You can make up any design you stumble across whilst wrapping yourself in rubber knots.
Completed Bracelet with Heart Motif
Processes & Skills
I still regarded it as a craze until, that is, our recent holiday with the girls mentioned above. My younger granddaughter, at 3, sat at a table for a good half an hour making a bracelet for me. She picked the colours, checked that I approved of her choice, used the loom, carefully put each band around the pegs of the loom, then used what looks like a plastic crochet hook to precisely lift up one band over another in the correct sequence until the bracelet was finished. She occasionally checked the length to see if it was right for my wrist. All this with no help at all!
This is not a craze; it is an art. It is a skill which involves several processes; careful thought regarding choices, subsequent preparation, fine motor skills, hand/eye coordination, colour recognition, concentration, creativity, patience and memory. She’d been watching and consulting others in order to learn and now she chatted with Mum and sister also working at the table, whilst she wove.
Not a bad list of accomplishments for a 3 year old, let alone being wonderful practice of all those skills needed in the future. She was also practising kindness and selflessness in spending time making something for another.
Learning & other Benefits
What’s the best way to learn? Do it! Better still, enjoy doing it and doing it repeatedly without even realising you’re learning.
Children love colour, they love something different, they want to do things by themselves, they love doing things in a group. Actually, I love all that too! Looms have it all.
The icing on the cake is that they don’t cost a fortune, unlike, for example, expensive computer-based games. They are 99p a packet, containing the bands, connectors and a hook. The looms on which to construct your product cost anything up to £5 depending on how many packets of bands and other extras are included. That’s not going to break the piggy-bank. Finally, something that over-stretched parents can buy without cutting down on food.
This is an excellent activity, fun, educational, sociable and creative. It might be a craze in the sense that we don’t know how long it will last but I think it’ll be around for much longer.
Remember the Cat's Cradle?
In the 50s we youngsters used to wind a knotted loop of string round our fingers, then use both thumbs and index fingers to pick two sides up, then under or over to make a new shape, taking it off someone’s fingers onto our own. Then it was the other’s turn.
The Loom Bands remind me a little of that game, though they offer more variety and creativity. The Cat’s Cradle required two people so you had to socialise in order to do it. It required imagination to change the shapes. It involved dexterity and coordination. Amazing how much fun we had with just a piece of string! That hardly cost anything, being a short length off the household ball of string which itself only cost a few pennies (as in old money ‘d’, not ‘p’!).
It was a craze but lasted several years and is one activity that is revisited when exploring traditional ‘Playground Games’ in Primary Schools, so has stood the test of time. It had its value and was good fun.
What about this craze? Was it a craze? It took skill to do it; fast reactions, fast thinking, hand-eye coordination, colour recognition. It did drive me crazy as it took me ages to do it and I only achieved it once.
It was too big and too complicated for most little ones to cope with; it requires a reasonable hand span. It did, though, inspire competitions and record-breaking. Was it a social activity? In some ways, I suppose, in that people got together to see who would be the fastest to complete the pattern.
However, once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. There is no creativity involved, the pattern is set. There is no satisfaction of being able to give your creation to a loved one as a present, to be worn proudly. Many of the skills needed to create something are not practised when wielding the Rubiks Cube. It has to be done quickly rather than taking time to produce a work of art.
The appeal was being able to complete it quickly and beat competitors.
Yes, it was a craze. Here today, gone tomorrow (mostly).
Well, this was great fun but quite dangerous, it seems. Many accidents occurred when Grandmas and Granddads had a go, just to prove they weren’t past it (they obviously failed!).
It required excellent balance, a lot of strength, stout shoes and a reasonable area in which to do it. You couldn’t just bounce round the back yard without a sore nose and grazed knuckles.
The skills involved were balance, coordination, agility, common sense and judging distance. To my mind you needed a degree in Physics to go with all that. For someone who is pretty well coordinated, good at ball games and was a good runner at one time, I failed miserably on a Pogo Stick. I also grazed my shins a lot.
Apparently it’s now one of those ‘extreme’ sports so has been modified a little from the garden or playground.
I still regard this as a craze and a crazy one, though it seems it has outgrown the definition being, unfortunately, not that short-lived.
Hula-Hoops (no, not the ones you eat)
I loved these. I was good at it. Are you getting a picture of my character yet? They came in a choice of colours as long as you wanted red, yellow, blue or green. If you were lucky you might occasionally find a stripy one.
You had to wiggle your hips and put your arms up to balance the whole body. The trick was to keep it going for as long as possible. I was a champion. No, I’m not big-headed, just telling the truth. Woe betide anyone who beat me, though. No, just kidding - maybe!
You had to have good coordination, a fine sense of rhythm and a waist for the hoops to go round. You also had to have a reasonable amount of stamina, especially if you were seeking the record. Gets a bit chilly in the playground at night.
I suppose it was a craze if you’re talking school-children in my day but the hoops are now used for fitness exercises and the like. There are many more interesting colours and designs these days. The hoops have made a come-back with children also using them for fun once more.
I thought these were old hat until I saw some in the toddlers’ gymnastics class. Space-Hoppers are the big, rubber, slightly off-round balls which have faces painted on them and rubber ‘ears’ sticking out at the top. You sit just behind the ears, hold on to those and bounce up and down. You’re supposed to be able to move forward on them.
Now, bear in mind that you have to get your balance and the angle of bounce right. If not, you’ll go backwards and get a sore head, or you’ll just tip straight over the top and look a right fool. The children are much better at it.
Aside from the intrinsic danger of using these on a hard surface, they are great for learning balance, for overcoming a child’s fear of something new. They’re close enough to the ground that any fall on a mat is hardly noticed (except if you’re an adult). They are fun. They come in bright colours. They teach sharing when you only have three in a group of thirty or so children.
A craze that has lasted, that toddlers still love having a go at, that teaches the skills of balance and spacial judgement and the sharing of toys.
So what's the overall verdict?
A good toy or activity has to be versatile. It should stretch the imagination, it should provide some opportunity for acquiring new skills and practising them. The more inventive and absorbing a new trend is, the more likely it is to make that extra transition from a mere craze to an accepted pastime.
Crazes come and go but some are so good that they have a place in history, some survive to become a ‘tradition’ or continue as an activity in their own right. Anything which teaches and practises physical and social skills has to be a good thing in my book.
What crazes do you remember fondly or otherwise? Do share them in the comments section and please tell me whether or not you think they were worth it.
As for Loom Bands, I think they have tremendous value for promoting fine motor, mental and social skills. I’m off to create the design of the century so watch this space!
Update: Disclaimer re Bands
It seems there are now some worries regarding the charms on the loom bracelets being potentially carcenogenic. The colour can seep out onto sweaty skin. I don't know if this applies to the bands themselves but so far it seems not. Care needs to be taken; I wouldn't use the charms and I'd read up on the latest reliable reports regarding the bands.
Sadly, it seems that some people discard some of the plastic bands which are then consumed by birds, fish, dogs, obviously causing harm. They are much smaller than average elastic bands but it would be a shame if people's carelessness and lack of consideration regarding the environment should be the cause of the Loom Bands' downfall.
I hope this problem can be overcome.
It's up to you!
Craze or Pastime?
Have you tried any of these? (tell me which ones in the comments section please)
© 2014 Ann Carr