I thought 600 rubber bands would be more than enough to keep my eight-year-old busy this summer making the modern-day version of friendship bracelets with her new Rainbow Loom.
If you don't know what these plastic contraptions are, it's likely you don't have a grade school girl in your midst.
I noticed the rubbery bracelets on my older daughter's wrist during the school year. At first, friends gave them to her. Then she started making them on looms at her friends' houses. She traded them on the school bus. Her friends brought their looms to our house. Her little pile of bracelets started getting bigger.
I'd like one for Christmas, my daughter finally said as summer began.
As a rule, I buy toys for birthdays and Christmas, but not very many. Eight years into her childhood, my daughter knows it's essentially useless to ask for something outside of those periods. I surprise my two girls with things from time to time, but not on any kind of regular basis. I learned long ago that you don't need to spend a lot of money to keep kids busy, learning and having fun.
Then, a belated birthday gift card from a relative came in the mail. It was more than enough to buy a Rainbow Loom, which sell for about $20 a pop. We became a Rainbow Loom family.
The kit came with 600 of the little, multi-colored rubber bands, used to make the bracelets and a variety of other things like rings, little bags and necklaces. That seemed like more than enough bands to keep her in bracelet making for the rest of the summer.
As soon as the loom arrived in the mail, she holed up in her room, churning out bracelets. By the end of the first day, we all had new bracelets to wear. By the end of the second day, she'd made bracelets for her friends. By the end of the third, she'd gone through nearly all of the 600 bands.
I need more, she said.
I'd already done my research and knew the bags of bands, when you could find them, sold for about $2.99 to $3.99 each. If she started going through 600 or more bands a week, that could start adding up pretty quickly.
And I'd witnessed a desperate scene at a local toy store a few weeks ago. That involved a mom with her about eight-year-old daughter rushing in, asking the salespeople if they had any bands, learning they were sold out and that a shipment was "stuck in customs in China" and rushing out to the next store.
I wanted to avoid all of that.
Take some of the bracelets apart and reuse the bands, I advised. She did. But soon, she was making more complicated bracelets, following the instructions of YouTube videos and making things called the "Double Rhombus" and the "Triple Single." Those took even more bands and she wanted additional colors. (Side note: Why don't the bags mixed with all of the colors include orange?).
So we made a deal: You wipe down the bathroom counters and dust all of the baseboards and I'll get you $10 worth of bands.
She asked me how soon she could start. I said, right away.
So we're both happy. The bathroom counters are clean and, for the first time in years, the baseboards are dust free. And she's busy with her new bands ... until she runs out of them again.
Sarah is Go Ask Mom's editor.