The yo-yo: A simple toy that brought endless fun

Sep 14, 2022
The yo-yo gave hours of endless fun. Source: Getty

When we were young, once upon a lifetime, the children we were made a lot of simple fun. We baby boomers went through a stage of fascination with a very simple toy, the yo-yo. I noticed one the other day. It was an old Coca-Cola plastic yo-yo in perfect condition, selling on eBay for $300! If only we had kept ours!

The yo-yo is basically made of two round discs connected by an axle, with a string attached. As children, we had hard plastic yo-yos. Some of these yo-yos didn’t last long. Children could spend hours practising tricks, and even attempting to invent new yo-yo games.

We thought we were the bees’ knees if we received a new yo-yo. Yes, the yo-yo is a simple toy, it needs no batteries or mechanisms to wind. We could take our yo-yos anywhere in our school cases, or in our pockets. We played yo-yos anywhere, simple fun for boys and girls.

Apparently, the yo-yo is one of the human race’s oldest toys. I browsed online and found an image of an ancient Greek painting from 440 B.C, in which a little boy was playing with a yo-yo. It’s the same game. His yo-yo was made of wood or pottery, known as terracotta, which would have affected its spin. More images were displayed, of olden women of India, demonstrating their prowess with the yo-yo.

All over the world today, youngsters play with yo-yos for fun, or to compete in yo-yo competitions. There is now even a world yo-yo day. Playing with this simple, ancient toy is an accepted international hobby for young and old alike. Yes, we played the familiar yo-yo tricks, so long as the yo-yo string remained intact. There was walk-the-dog, rock the baby, and a host of others.

If you wish, any senior can purchase a yo-yo – see if you still have the knack. It’s an acquired art, flicking the wrist, a peaceful, harmless-fun skill. Maybe any senior could teach these younger yo-yo aficionados some long-lost techniques!

In walk-the-dog, we tried to make the yo-yo roll on the floor, and then wind back up the string. Tricky! Our aim, as yo-yo fans, was to flip our wrists with perfect tension on the yo-yo string. This would make the toy roll back up its string.

Yo-yo players have to insert one finger into a slip knot. If the string on the yo-yo tangled or snapped, there was an upset boomer babe or boy. We hoped for a new yo-yo. Or we would wait for Christmas, or a show bag at the annual show, hoping for a new yo-yo. Excitement machines!

Sometimes the yo-yo would tilt and not roll back, so we had to rewind it, seeking perfect tension, with alignment. We were practising our yo-yo techniques, the same as in ancient times. I continued on to read that these days, yo-yos are being made in advanced modes, with slightly different materials, such as aluminium or titanium, and with ball bearings to improve the spin and capabilities of each yo-yo.

Nearly sixty years later, I can still fondly recall the fun times we all spent at home or in our school playgrounds, seeking to master the techniques of our simple toy. To this day, playing with a yo-yo is a global game. Even adults can still delight in demonstrating the tricks of the ancient yo-yo.

Yes, it was all once upon a lifetime ago, such fun with a simple toy.

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