Guest Blogger

The Rainbow (Loom) Connection: a Small Scale Maker Program

Rainbow Loom is the latest fad sweeping across American classrooms. With the help of a plastic loom and a crochet hook, kids can weave, twist, and loop tiny rubber bands into anything from bracelets and lanyards to hats and charms. It’s popular, it appeals to boys and girls, it’s good for fine motor development…and it’s perfect for a maker program.

Interested in trying this out at your library? Here are a few tips and tricks:

Step 1: Learn to Loom
Even if you are neither artsy nor craftsy, you can learn how to use the Rainbow Loom successfully. There are a number of wonderful beginner tutorials on the official website. YouTube also has entire channels devoted to the Rainbow Loom–JustinsToys, Made by Mommy, PG’s Loomacy, and TutorialsbyA are a few that I used to prepare for our program.

Step 2: …But Do It Off Desk
Rainbow Loom has a learning curve that can lead you to some frustrating places. A single missed step can result in your creation merrily disintegrating into a pile of rubber bands, leading you to suddenly understand what Sisyphus felt like watching that boulder roll all the way back down the hill. Find a quiet place where you can really concentrate and aim for proficiency rather than total mastery.

Step 3: Know Your Experts
I wanted this program to be an opportunity for kids to create and collaborate with each other–less like a class and more like a quilting circle. To facilitate that, we asked kids at registration if they were advanced or beginning loomers. During the program, color-coded nametags helped us group some of our expert loomers with our beginners.

 Step 4: Know Your Supplies
The amount of bands you will need depends on the pattern–more complex patterns generally require more rubber bands. If you’re planning on buying some looms, the starter kits come with approximately 600 bands and 20 C-clips. I’d estimated that in a 90-minute program, each kid could make three 50-band bracelets. This turned out to be a little high, so we had enough left over for another session.

Step 5: Use Your Resources
We started off the program with a YouTube tutorial, which was a nice segue into the less structured section. Our brand new rubber band jewelry book was a big help for the loomers who weren’t sure what to make next.

Step 6: Keep Calm and Loom On!
I’ve learned that at any given moment during a craft program, the number of children shouting, “Miss Martha! I NEED HELP!” will always be at least four times greater than the number of Miss Marthas in the room. Make sure that you have another staff member on hand, or possibly a teen or middle school age volunteer. This is also a great opportunity for your experts to shine. We were lucky to have one guru who knew just about everything there was to know about Rainbow Loom, and had all kinds of great tips and tricks.

Step 7: Have Fun!
Being a beginning loomer myself, I was a little nervous about leading this program. The neat thing about maker programs is that they can turn barriers into opportunities for learning–even if you are leading the program. That’s exactly what ended up happening with our program–we had fun learning from each other. Keep that in mind as your prepare for your program.


Martha Cordeniz O’Hara is a Children’s Services Associate at the Glencoe Public Library in Glencoe, Illinois. When she is not at the Glencoe Public Library, you can sometimes find her working at the Lake Bluff Public Library or attending class through the LEEP Program at the University of Illinois. She lives in Highland Park with her husband and their two opinionated cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @marthacohara, especially if you are interested in pictures of the aforementioned cats.

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