Silly Bandz, those silicone rubber shapes that act like traditional rubber bands, but bounce back into animals, letters and now, (thump, thump of the preteen/tween heart here) into a Justin Bieber shape. Kids from pre-kindergarteners to college students collect them. We spoke to several parents and grandparents whose kids have more than a hundred of them. Silly Bandz are everywhere right now.
The toys are generally worn as bracelets. A line of necklaces and rings are now available. Kids wear multiples of them. Silly Bandz come in packages of 24 for about $5 and in 12 packs for $2. They are brightly colored and packaged in themes – animals, shapes, letters, numbers etc.
Where did they come from? What good or bad are they? And most importantly for parents and grandparents looking toward holiday shopping, how long will the silly Bandz craze last? It is inevitable that at some point they will join bobble head dolls, beanie babies and hula hoops as yesterdays in thing. It’s all a matter of timing.
According to Wikipedia, Silly Bandz were invented back in 2002 by a Japanese design team looking for an environmentally friendly rubber band. Robert Croak, owner of BCP Imports, saw them and got the idea to sell them as a kids’ fashion accessory. Croak and his company made the bands thicker and larger. BCP Imports is now the distributor for Silly Bandz.
The first Silly Bandz were sold online in 2008. Learning Express in Birmingham Alabama became the first retail outlet in early 2009. By fall, Croak’s kids’ fashion accessory had made its way from the South to the East Coast. As of August 2010, Silly Bandz are sold in 8000 stores across the US. Seven spots on Amazon.com April 22 list of best selling toys and games belonged to Silly Bandz.
We asked for input on Facebook (where else?) on the toys and got responses from moms, grandmas and teachers. Several moms said their kids have hundreds.
Melissa commented “My boys have them (at least 100), ask for them repeatedly when we go into stores, then come home and forgot about them and I find them all over the place." Natasha said her daughter wears hers “pretty often” and has over a 100 of them.
Schools are not thrilled. A recent message home to parents in a West Kentucky school system warned parents that there would be confiscations if the Silly Bandz proved a distraction. Kids who take them on and off during instruction time risk losing them to the teacher’s desk.
Kindergarten teacher Kris wrote: "As a teacher I find that they are a major distraction in school. My kids want to play with them during the lessons, they put them in their mouths, they use them like rubber bands etc."
There are concerns that wearing Silly Bandz may cut off circulation in a child’s arm if the band is too tight. Doctors caution against allowing children to sleep with them on. The test, according to a story on FoxNews.com, is if the band is turning a child’s arm white, it’s too tight.
FoxNews.com reported in a May 26, 2010:
“Dr. Gregory Simonian, chief of endovascular surgery and director of the Heart Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, told me that his daughter also wears Silly Bandz, and that Dr. Manny could be on to something. “Whether it’s tight bracelets or a ring on your finger, anything that is constricting could cause vascular insufficiency—meaning the blood flow is being altered by some external force. In this case, it’s the new, hip rubber bracelets,” Simonian said. Veins leaving the hand are low pressure, so it wouldn’t take much, especially on a child, to constrict the flow. “These bands could cause what we call a tourniquet effect that can cause your veins to get congested. The bracelets could cause blood clots to form in some of the veins, giving someone a phlebitis, which is an inflammation and clotting of the vein,” he said.
Grandparents on Facebook were quick to point out the trends they lived through. Donna wrote "I think they are going to be a fad just like the slap bracelets were, and the mood rings, and pop rocks!"
Another commented, “Isn't there always something like this around? Doesn't every parent and every child have to learn to deal with this sort of challenge? I admit I haven't seen the things or dealt with them; but isn't it the same as something previous generations have encountered?"
However long Silly Bandz last, they have been an economic boom in a pretty boomless time. Stephanie Carter of ETC Gifts in Clinton said they began selling the toys the first of summer. They flew out the door as vacation bible school gifts and for birthday party favors. Stephanie is seeing what she calls a “dwindling” of sales and reports sales of the necklaces hasn’t been as strong as the bracelets were.
BCP Imports is selling millions of packages. Their staff has grown from 20 employees to 200. The company just added 22 phone lines to answer inquiries. Sillybandz.com has a line of seasonal bands just in time for the holidays and with teen stars like Bieber, Mary Kate Olsen and sports figures jumping on the "bandz" wagon, Silly Bandz will probably survive through Christmas.