Monday, November 19, 2012

Start with String

It's grey, cold, and foggy here in Prague, so the children are spending lots of time rummaging through the art cabinet, looking through projects and books we've saved for a rainy day (or month, or two). On one rummage, Caroline finds a Klutz book on string figures. In no time at all, she's an avid fan.

"You start with string," she tells me, authoritatively. "It's really amazing because that's all you need!" Her voice goes peeping high in excitement. She thinks it's almost magical that, with a bit of advanced thumb twirling, she can build the Eiffel Tower, twist together a witch's broom and cat whiskers. She's even conquered Jacob's Ladder, her proudest feat.

Magic might not be involved, but there's definitely something meditative about making a string figure. I think it's the way our hands work together, mirror imaged, to create further symmetry. Or maybe there's something to be said for twiddling our fingers, some sort of innate soothing ritual our ancestors developed along with their opposable thumbs. It's certainly an old game. Anthropologists tell us that string figure games have prehistoric roots, and are also well known in cultures around the world.

Caroline has already memorized all the figures in her book, and we're on the hunt for new challenges. Let me know if you have a favorite pattern to recommend!

7 comments:

Roderick Robinson said...

What a terrible shock. I thought for a moment that the strings ran THROUGH C's nose in the middle pic. I mean there's going native, and there's going native. But even before I checked more closely a little voice was telling me that C is far too sensible to have done that, whatever the book said. Phew! One can die a thousand deaths reading others' blogs.

Julia said...

Robbie, I'm reading Caroline your comment when she gets home from school. I'm sure she will be tickled to hear it!

meredith said...

We have and have loved the Klutz string book!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Those Klutz books are really wonderful. We're fans of making paper airplanes.

Lucy said...

I had a Japanese friend who did a lot of origami with her girls, and she said Japanese mothers were often surprised at how little fiddly finger-play stuff Western kids were encouraged to do. There seems to be evidence that it's good for all kinds of cognitive development. I'm filled with admiration for C's memorising of the string patterns, I was always hopeless and impatient at the most basic of cat's cradles!

alice c said...

Oh! Such happy memories - MissM was a genius at string games and could make string do magical things too.

Rouchswalwe said...

We have the Klutz clay book ... they do lead to magical stuff. And I have to admit, I thought the same thing Robbie thought ... what a relief that Caroline isn't wearing a nose ring now.