Y: Yo-Yo

As I kid, I played with a variety of toys.  Looking back, I realize a lot of them took a ridiculous amount of dexterity for a young person who was only a few years away from learning to hold a fork. You could drive yourself insane trying to work a paddle ball and what sadist came up with jacks? [Side note: Jacks are now HUGE and made of plastic! Where’s the fun in that?]

The one toy that I could never conquer is the yo-yo. It would go down but never come up. I practically gave myself carpal tunnel trying to get it right, to no avail. No matter the type (I remember having sparkly and glow-in-the-dark Duncan Imperials), they all failed in my hands.


People have enjoyed this exercise in frustration masquerading as a toy for centuries. Records show yo-yos being used by children in Ancient China and Greece, in 16th-Century Philippines as weapons (my preferred method as a kid), during the 1700s by stress-relief seeking  soliders, and as a status symbol by European nobility. They arrived in the United States in the 1800s and then fell out of fashion, until reappearing in the 1920s. There’s a great history at the Spintastics Skill Toys site about the 20th-Century battle to patent and produce this toy.


It’s amazing that this tiny object has endured, fascinated, and frustrated humanity for so long. It definitely taught me about persistence (and failure!) because I put years into becoming a yo-yo champion. I had to set that dream aside but it was definitely fun trying.


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