"It's kind of fascinating seeing the patterns and designs that I can make," says Peter Leibrandt, 10, of Havertown, explaining the popularity of Rainbow Looms, a simple concept using rubber bands to create bracelets, rings, necklaces, and, in the cases of some young experts, even handbags, shoes, jump ropes, hats, and iPod cases
At Learning Express Toys in Havertown, eight free instructional classes are held each week, available for both Rainbow Loom novices and advanced aficionados. Girls and boys hone their bracelet-making skills while bonding with fellow Loom-lovers.
"They teach how to make different kinds of bracelets that you can only learn here," says Daniel Teti, 10, of Drexel Hill.
"I love seeing how colors look together," adds Haley Short, 11, of Ardmore.
Parents also welcome the fad, says Allyson Smith, mother of 6-year-old daughter Slone. She says she's "happy to buy" her kids something that involves thinking and doing. Moms nearby echoed that, saying they preferred the craft over buying mindless toys or video games. Jean Tryson, grandmother of Daniel Teti and his sister, Genevieve, 6, added that the Rainbow Loom "benefits hand-eye coordination and concentration."
Rich Gordon, Havertown's Learning Express owner, says Loom-makers find the craft "purely engaging and only limited by imagination."
Although it may seem as if the Rainbow Loom is a craze that appeared overnight, the sensation has been growing steadily in appeal since late 2012. Invented by Michigan resident Cheong-Choon Ng, the Rainbow Loom, Gordon says, has now "spread like wildfire throughout the country," especially with kids 5 to 15.
One need look no farther than the assortment of Loomers at the Havertown class, all proudly sporting their creations. Many claim to have made 50 bracelets, some having learned from the instructional book that comes with the $16.99 kit (refills cost $4 to $5) or watching tutorials on YouTube.com.
Jessica Wilding, a sixth grader from Springfield, gives most of her creations to family and friends. Peter Leibrandt and his classmates often offer their designs to teachers. Cay Scheuer, one of the instructors of the Rainbow Loom classes in Havertown, says she frequently hears stories of children who sell their creations and donate the proceeds to charity.
But parents seem to be the main beneficiaries.