Loom bands latest craze for children
For a while there, things could have looked pretty bleak for children in a tech-centric world.
Some parents worried about a growing dependence on screen time and the creative childhoods of yester-year seemed at risk.
Who knew tiny, coloured rubber bands could turn it all around?
Loom bands have hit Christchurch and they've hit hard. Every shop has them and every school is being swept up with the latest craze.
Kids want them and most parents welcome them.
Yes, they do get stuck in the vacuum cleaner and finding them in the bottom of the washing machine isn't all that great. But it's a small price to pay for quiet, creative kids.
Christchurch is the latest city to be inundated by this global phenomenon where rubber bands are woven into jewellery, hats, art - anything you like.
Loom bands have hit most developed countries and become an instant hit, but it all began in America.
People magazine describes Rainbow Looms, the original kit, as an "it toy" - a must have. Inventor and father of two, Choon Ng, has made a fortune from the tiny pieces of rubber and the fad continues to grow.
Ng invented looms when his daughters began weaving rubber bands on their fingers to make bracelets. He invented a little plastic loom tool and eventually patented the little bands to go with it.
These days, the internet is bursting with Facebook fan groups, YouTube instructional videos and knock-off products.
At Ilam School in Christchurch, the craze is being picked up by boys and girls of all ages.
In a quiet classroom at lunch time, five 7-year-old girls are single-mindedly focused on the task at hand. There's a sea of brightly coloured little bands on the desk, and tupperware containers full of their best, most difficult creations.
Little fingers are criss-crossed by bands and snakes of woven jewellery hang down their arms and around their necks. There's much debate over which is the most difficult design to weave - fishtail, triple single, or butterflies.
"Boys and girls, it doesn't matter," says Daisy Aaron. "We do this all the time."
It's agreed that making jewellery for other kids is preferable.
"I don't make it for my mum and dad," Ruby Maclaine says. "It takes forever because they have big hands and big necks."
Much easier, they say, to stick to little people. Within minutes they have necklaces more than a foot long.
The girls are eager to share their newfound skills.
"You just loop the first one over your two fingers, then you get two more and pull them up and over," Daisy says. "See, it's easy."
But it's not just children getting into this craze. On Facebook, there are "adult only" groups of loomers and some of the more ambitious projects (like a woven Santa hat) are being taken on by all ages.
Mother Kirsten Aaron has only good things to say about loom bands. Not only are they a cheap toy (at about $2-$3 for a pack of 300 bands), they keep the kids busy and focused on a productive task.
"It's not often that kids this age can pick something up so easily but this is perfect for them."
On YouTube, a lot of the really difficult videos are tutored by children.
The Ilam School girls all use YouTube to improve their skills. They are quite capable of searching for the design tutorials they want.
It's the perfect way to bring technology and old-school values together, says Aaron.
"This is the first real craze we've experienced," she says. "It's a good craze really."
"The lure of video games is something so strong it's often hard to get them to do anything else."
Christchurch schools are at various stages of this particular fad. For some, the novelty has worn off, while others are only just catching on.
Daisy and Ruby plan to keep looming "until they grow up". Ruby is planning a market stall to sell her creations at KidsFest next week.
At $1.50 per item, she is hoping for some serious profit to buy more bands.