If you have a child in the 6-12 age range, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Rainbow Loom. It’s the new craze in the schools, and the top selling toy in Canada and the U.S. The toy was invented by a Malaysian father who one evening was watching his daughters make bracelets out of rubber hands with their fingers. He tried, and because his fingers were too large and clumsy, he couldn’t do it. So he hammered some nails into a board, making a makeshift ‘loom’ and started playing with the elastics. He and his daughters realized quickly that they could make really amazing, more intricate patters with the loom…and the rest is history. You can read his story here – http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Family/Features/2013/12/13/Malaysianborn-father-strikes-gold-in-Rainbow-Loom-in-US.aspx/.
My 7 year old son is OBSESSED with rainbow loom. It is pretty much all he talks about with his friends and what he does when he gets home from school. He has been obsessed now for three months, and I would estimate that he has clocked over 50 hours making bracelets. The bracelet patterns are separated by beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and he is now doing the advanced patterns. I have found this all very interesting to observe. Beyond the development of skill (fine motor/dexterity etc), this Rainbow Loom fad has been incredibly positive for my son at a deeper level, uncovering and strengthening values and facilitating new learning, in these three ways::
1. Gender Bending: At Mo’s school, both boys and girls are into it and are making and wearing bracelets. Before Rainbow Loom, I have found this age to be very gender separate – the boys do their activities and the girls do theirs. Despite LOTS of conversations about this and the fact that Mo is being raised by two moms who are feminists and make it clear that ‘you can be who you want to be’, Mo has always been a ‘boy boy’ – his top interests have been trucks, superheroes, weapons, wrestling and sports. And before the Rainbow Loom, Mo has never been interested in making a craft or wearing a bracelet, and he would say that ‘only girls do that’. This change and interest in bracelet making has been fascinating to me. Quite frankly, it shows me the power of peers, that I think (unfortunately sometimes) is stronger than the power of parents (Hold On To Your Kids by Neufeld and Mate is an excellent book on this). Anyways, I love how it is now cool for boys to make and wear bracelets.
2. Teaching and Learning – especially Online: Mo learns how to make his bracelets through online videos, where someone is showing and teaching the step-by-step instructions on each pattern. Rainbow Loom has official online teaching videos, but kids are now putting up their own on Youtube, and Mo seems to like these ones even better. He listens to a 10 year old girls voice going through the steps, he can press pause and rewind when he’s missed a step, and he learns new patterns extremely fast through this method. It’s interesting to watch him learn in this way, and its amazing to see kids teaching and learning from each other online! Mo asked me about making a video himself to teach Rainbow Loom, and I think this would be an ambitious and interesting project, to see how he teaches (at the age of 7!).
3. Generosity: Mo is giving everyone his bracelets – our neighbors, his friends at school, the dental hygienist when we went to the dentist… He is making so many of them, and there are only so many he can wear on his arm. He is very proud of his bracelets, and I realized that 7 years old normally don’t have a lot of opportunities to practice generosity, because they don’t have money or things to give away. Rainbow Loom has provided an opportunity for him to practice generosity, and I love to see this in action.
Here are a few photos of Mo doing Rainbow Loom…