Which made me wonder about you. Do you play string games with bits of string? Do you make the Parachute, the Eiffel Tower, the Cup-and-Saucer and the Butterfly? Do you trap your friends' hands in the Hand Trap? Do you know the story of the Candle Thief? Can you Cat's Cradle with the best of us?
It's been around a long time, Cat's Cradle. Charles Lamb played it with his school chums back in the 1780s, and George Eliot had Celia playing it in Middlemarch in 1869:
Celia had no disposition to recur to disagreeable subjects. It had been her nature when a child never to quarrel with any one - only to observe with wonder that they quarrelled with her, and looked like turkey-cocks; whereupon she was ready to play at cat's cradle with them whenever they recovered themselves.According to Anne Akers Johnson in her book, String Games From Around the World, you'll find people playing with string as far afield as Australia's Torres Strait Islands, Alaska, Ireland, Paraguay and Ghana. Jemimah loves it at the age of eight, and her Daddy loves it at...well older than eight.
And so, if you've never tried playing with bits of string I would encourage you to give it a try.
If you can't quite remember the moves, Anne's two books, the one mentioned above along with Cat's Cradle, which I haven't seen, but looks equally as good, would be a good start. Alternatively, try this online book, String Games by Arvind Gupta. It contains most of the good stuff for free. Actually, I wonder about Indian copyright laws because it contains most of String Games From Around the World within its pages, but anyhow, it's quite good, and the diagrams are easy to follow. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to link to the page with a hyperlink. The address is:
While you're at it, teach your kids. Apparently the parents in Paraguay are better at string games than their kids. It would be a shame if this activity died a death with the advent of television, wouldn't it? I could tell you that playing string games will improve your child's eye-hand coordination, and maybe it will. But I say play string games because you can do it alone or with friends. It is cheap, enjoyable, imaginative and safe. Most of all though, it is fun. That's what childhood's all about in my book.
We can't have our kids looking like turkey-cocks now, can we?