Before I even understood what it was, I had a bias against the Rainbow Loom. As the mother of three young daughters who is continually trying to protect my kids from the gender stereotyping that dominates their world, I tend to steer clear of anything with the word “rainbow.”
Even though I tried my best to block out this toy, I managed to pick up that it involved jewelry. That was the nail in its coffin. With two strikes, the loom had little chance of ever making it into my home. (Generally, how I deal with gendered toys is not to ban them– that only makes my kids want the stuff more– but ignore them, while I give a lot of attention to the toys I like. I play those with my kids.)
A few days ago, we went to my sister’s house, and her kids were making the bracelets. I, as usual, ignored the activity, but then I noticed my seven year old daughter wasn’t part of the group. She was sitting by herself, reading a book, and she looked sad. I asked her why she wasn’t making a bracelet, and she said she didn’t know how, that she couldn’t do it. This information and her expression just about killed me, so I said I’d teach her. She said, “No, other people have tried. I can’t do it.” So at that point, I knew there was no way we were leaving that house until she made a goddam bracelet. I may not like another rainbow/ jewelry toy, but I won’t resist an opportunity to help my kid practice resilience, power through frustration, and keep at something until she masters it.
I got some rubber bands, we started to work, and she was right. She really didn’t know how. For a while, I couldn’t even figure out why she kept messing up– it was just the basic pattern we were doing, nothing complicated. Finally, I realized she wasn’t stretching the hole big enough (mind you, this isn’t my forte either.) We sat there for a fucking hour but something clicked. Here she is after she figured it out.
She was so proud of herself, and I was so proud of her. So what did I do to reinforce that behavior? I went out and bought her a loom. And, because I have three kids– and my ten year old is a whiz at this shit, and I didn’t want her taking over my seven year old’s stuff– I bought three looms.
So there we were, sitting down last night in our living room making bracelets and necklaces, and it was so much fun. We had a blast. Notice the “we.” I got into it, too. You might even say, obsessed. You know how I wrote I can’t help teaching my kid to deal with frustration and power through something until she gets it? These toy is perfect for that, because you can keep challenging yourself– even if you’re a grown-up, maybe especially if you’re a grown-up– making your pattern and stitching more complicated. I’m telling you, this shit is addictive.
While my daughters and I were creating these beautiful things, we talked. At some point, I asked them “Do the boys make these too?” They looked at me like I was crazy, and not for the reason I thought. “Of course, they do. They love it,” my kids told me. I hadn’t even asked if the boys wear them, so I did. All the boys wear them. You probably know this because you have sons or haven’t been blocking out this trend. The kids make this stuff together, put it on, give it away, and, I kid you not, sell it.
I now believe the Rainbow Loom is nothing less than revolutionary. It’s called The Rainbow Loom for goodness sake, and it’s for everyone. Do you realize what this toy is saying to kids? Colors are for everyone. Look at these colors, please. This is what comes with your loom.
Rainbow Loom also teaches that jewelry, the epitome of a “girl” toy, is for everyone. And finally, that girls and boys can play together. Is there another toy, another trendy, top-selling toy at that, which shows kids all this?
Now, I am new to this trend, so please tell me if I’m wrong here, but as far as I can tell, there is no “girl” version with pink and purple and a “boy” version with blue, red, and black. I’m going to be checking out what the kids are wearing, but mine use all the colors and they tell me the boys do to. Just before I wrote this post, I did a Google search, and I couldn’t find anything to indicate gendered marketing (though I’m supposed to be doing 100 other things right now, on Christmas Eve Day, besides blog, so I could’ve looked longer.) I did see this post from thespec.com
Tricia Ross’s eight-year-old son avoids playing with any of his older sisters’ toys. But he and many of his male classmates in Charlottesville, Va., have seized on loom bands.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment” that comes with finishing a bracelet, Tricia Ross says, and it’s enough to inspire her son to “sit there until it’s complete.” He’s begun taking orders for bracelets from his younger sister, cranking them out in the styles and colour schemes she requests.
Ross and Volkman both find that while many craft products are packaged in pink boxes emblazoned with pictures of smiling girls, the gender-neutral packaging of loom band products make them more boy-friendly. It also helps, Volkman thinks, that they use rubber bands rather than fluffy yarn or delicate materials.
I remember reading in People a couple weeks ago that the founder of Rainbow Loom, Cheong Choon Ng, is the father of two daughters. He watched his kids make bracelets and that inspired him to create the loom which he first did with pins. Here’s his daughter, Julia, age 12, making a complicated design (pic from NYT.)
How cool is that? A toy inspired by 2 girls, teaches boys and girls to play together, and that colors and jewelry are for everyone. The only downside so far is the price. It’s $30 for the one my kids wanted. Because I opted to get three, I bought the travel model at $14 each. The founder has got to be a millionaire– I mean, it’s rubber bands and plastic. But if this guy and his toy are defying gender stereotypes, getting kids to play together, and boys to take orders from girls, IMO he deserves every penny. If you’re doing any last minute shopping today, get this for your kids (and yourself!) That is, if you can find any left in a store.
Reel Girl rates Rainbow Loom ****HHH****
Margot, the looms have come to New Zealand and kids of all ages and genders are into them. My 7 year old is learning so much, just as you’ve described. Good value for money I say!
Well written and thought provoking. My 9 year old son bought his with his own money and wears all his bracelets that cover his entire forearm to school. My 5 year old son is obsessed with his that was a Xmas gift because he always was using his brothers. My 7 year old daughter also got one for Xmas and makes accessories to decorate the dog’s collar. All colors used equally by all kids except for the preferred glow in the dark ones! I have used it too- very addictive!
I love everything about this article. I am kind of in love with the loom (and making stuff in general). I’m going to break down and ask my husband to tell me how he does the double beaded rainbow ladder…
You do this with your husband? That’s so great. I am struggling right now with the starburst. It’s SO frustrating but then so SATISFYING when you figure it out. Break down! I wish I could ask mine, but he’s not hooked yet…
That is awesome. Truly. 🙂 Thanks for the article – I’m going to have to source this for my nephew (he would get a kick out of it)!
Do it and please, report back.
My experience with Rainbow Looms: I have 3 cousins (ages 13, 10, and 7) who are very gendered– the boys play with “boy” things and the girl won’t wear anything that’s not pink and/or ruffly. Every single one of them has a Rainbow Loom and makes bracelets (though the girl uses more pink and purple and the boys use darker colors).
Then the other day I was working at a Holiday Carnival for kids and saw a boy (8? 9?) with a bracelet on. When I asked him whether or not it was Rainbow Loom, he nodded happily and I was blown away. This was a young boy wearing a bracelet and happily telling me that he’d made it himself– I don’t think that has ever happened before!
To be honest, I’ve been thinking that Rainbow Looms are the most amazing gender-neutral toy for a while, but I didn’t want to say it for fear that the kids would stop using them. 🙂
This is so great to hear.