- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - There’s the “starburst,” the “fishtail” and the “hexafish.” Then there’s the “sweetheart” and the “liberty twistz,” the “triple single rainbow” and the “tulip tower.”

Those aren’t dance moves or stiff drinks. Each nonsensical name describes a different kind of bracelet, all made from dozens of tiny rubber bands with a hook and plastic trinket called a Rainbow Loom.

Hannah McCune, a fifth grader at Ruthlawn Elementary, rattled off the names for her bracelets as she sorted through a pile of more than 100 of them - a collection she’s compiled over the last several months, since her aunt bought her a Rainbow Loom as a gift.

“I’ve made tons of them,” McCune said. “I even made half of the hardest fishtail in the world.”

She’s not alone. Kids are crazy about the Rainbow Loom. Since it caught on last year - with the help of the Internet, the simple, old-fashioned craft toy has won a slew of toy awards and inspired dedication from legions of pint-sized fans.

The loom - just a plastic board with three rows of pegs - comes with hundreds of small, colorful rubber bands and a hook. Each bracelet, necklace or charm is made by pulling the rubber bands from one hook to another, creating complex designs.

Parents like it because it’s cheap. The looms often cost less than $15 and rubber band refills are around $3 - and more creative and hands-on than videogames or electronics.

“The kids are teaching each other these things,” said Susan Nelson, director of the Third Base after-school program at Ruthlawn Elementary. Her team started letting kids bring in their Rainbow Loom kits to work on during the program, after they heard kids talking about the toys nonstop.

“We try to come up with our own activities for the kids, but this is one of those things that was kid driven,” she said. “They wanted to do it, so we thought we’d let them.”

The hands-on crafting experience is part of the Rainbow Loom’s appeal. But the toy also benefits from the same draw as Beanie Babies and Pogs, baseball cards and Silly Bandz: They’re collectors’ items.

After kids make the bracelets, which often takes less than 10 minutes, they are left with a finished product, dozens of rubber bracelets that they fill their wrists with every day.

“Everybody makes them,” said Emma Dickens, a fourth grader at Ruthlawn. “And even the people who don’t ask us for the bracelets all the time.”

The Rainbow Loom had one more thing helping its ascension to toy stardom: the Internet.

The loom comes with a manual that includes instructions for some of the simpler designs, but those don’t hold the same appeal as the other, more complicated and mysterious bracelet designs, like the starburst or the tulip tower.

Where do you go to find out how to make those?

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