Play it again

David Smith comes down with a severe case of déjà vu when it comes to the latest playground craze to return to playgrounds: diabolo.
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There's a diabolo craze sweeping my boys’ school at the moment.

If my memory serves me correctly, this is the third time diabolo mania has swept through their school in the last five years. It always starts the same way.

A younger child comes into school with a diabolo, probably thinking he or she is the first to have ever seen this wondrous new invention. Friends who have never seen a diabolo before are awestruck and instantly ask their parents for one. Parents, delighted that their little ones are asking for something so wonderfully old-fashioned, are happy to oblige.

At the same time, veterans from past crazes are prompted to dust off their old diabolos and bring them into school, at which point they amaze both friends and themselves with the fact that they can still do all of the old tricks (playing with a diabolo, apparently, is very much like riding a bike).

The result is that, in the space of a few days, the playground is filled with children at various stages of competency.

Diabolos are rolling across the car park at pick-up time, the air is filled with a new vocabulary (although this varies from outbreak to outbreak, our playground is currently reverberating to cries of ‘grind’, ‘electric’ and ‘elevator’,) and everyone knows to pay attention when someone says they’re going to have a go at the jaw-dropping ‘firecracker’.

If this craze is anything like the others, it will all be over by Christmas, but it’s a lesson in longevity and the way the simplest toys can keep on calling out to children.

I think the toy industry as a whole is often preoccupied with finding the next big craze. I can understand this preoccupation, of course.

There’s a lot of money to be made if you get the product, marketing and timing just right.

But there’s also a danger that a craze can have no solid foundation and can fade away just as quickly as it exploded onto the scene in the first place.

If a craze is little more than collectable pieces of plastic, it’s unlikely to ever enjoy a renaissance.

If, however, like the diabolo (or the recent Loom Bands) there is actual play value built-in, then you could have a hardy perennial on your hands.

You may be left guessing when the craze is going to flare up again, but you can rest assured that somewhere, someday, it will.


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