With millions sold, ‘Loom bands’ have been a hit toy around the world with boys and girls alike. Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Megan Perryman takes a look at the phenomenon of childhood crazes, and the child-to-child marketing effect.
A month ago I didn’t know what loom bands were. Now they’ve taken over my life. These tiny colourful elastic bands that can be woven into different patterns (usually to create friendship bracelets) litter my house and have taken over my daughter’s arms. Seemingly out of nowhere they’ve become the must-have toy for children and are an acceptable adornment for adults too.
Loom bands are an international phenomenon. The Rainbow Loom was invented by a Malaysian-born engineer in Michigan in 2011. Over the last year the craze has taken off around the globe. The internet has played a significant role in this, with children and adults alike taking to YouTube to offer tutorials for the wary beginner.
It’s the latest in a long line of childhood crazes and it’s particularly interesting to me the way that boys and girls alike both create and wear them. A year ago I’m not sure I would have bought a jewellery-making kit for a boy I didn’t really know. I can imagine the eye-rolling from other parents at my ‘politically correct’ choice. But now it’s okay. Boys love loom bands just as much as girls. And why shouldn’t they?
What makes a good craze?
A childhood craze is one of those things that appears out of nowhere – a sudden rush for children to take part in something seemingly simple that takes over their lives for a short period of time. It often has a social aspect with children creating, playing or swapping items with each other.
In 2011 the Method Design Lab identified nine key elements that frequently appear with a craze:
- Play factor
- Limited edition and distribution
- Size (the smaller the better)
- Price point (£3-6 being ideal)
- Online component
- Update on an older toy craze
- Positive message
Santiago Matheus from the Method Design lab said: “A craze behaves like an ‘outbreak’ seemingly coming out of nowhere and spreading rapidly through the population often leaving us with no understanding of the reasons behind what just happened.” (Source: Toy News, 13/07/11)
So what was your favourite childhood craze? Was it a hula hoop, marbles or spinning plates? Do you remember fondly your pet rock, clackers or space hopper? Or was it a tamagotchi, pogs or heelies that was the must-have toy for you?
For me, I remember trading Cabbage Patch kids stickers in the early eighties, playing with brightly coloured yo-yos a few years later, and surreptitiously feeding a tamagotchi hidden in my pencil case in my teens.
Crazes are hugely powerful – taking over playgrounds in days and staying firmly rooted in nostalgia forever.
Boys and girls
As with loom bands, gender rarely plays a role in the childhood craze. Boys and girls play, trade and create together. In a world where toy marketing attempts to convince consumers that boys and girls are different species, a craze reveals the truth: all children love a good toy.
‘Pogs’ image courtesy of Niall Kennedy