the best creative play engages the child comprehensively. i've been reading recently about waldorf education, and rudolf steiner's work more generally. one of the themes which comes up regularly with waldorf is the development of the child through head, heart, and hands.. cognitive, emotional, physical.. or some variation on that. i think back to my own childhood, and my favorite toy over the years was the yo-yo.. and why? it rewarded me incrementally and grew with me, as my skill developed my tricks became more sophisticated, it was very open-ended and allowed me to come up with my own variations and modifications.. my own style of play. it was a personal expression, and it fits nicely with the idea of engaging head, heart, and hands.
aroundsquare is best known for wooden blocks--twig (through fat brain toys), and the goodwood deconstruction series. but the toy that started it all was something quite different.. an elegant little contraption which i called monkey knuckles. it grew out of my fascination with freehand yo-yos, and evolved when i encountered larry shaw's brilliant astrojax. monkey knuckles is a toy which, like the yo-yo, allows the player to come up with their own styles of play, their own tricks, their own flow. the whole skilltoys category--which would include things like poi, diabolo and juggling--is strangely blossoming, even in the face electronic gaming. it is wonderful to see online communities for yo-yoing, flowtoys and the like. there is real artistry developing, and it's not just for kids..
with this all happening, i'm thinking it is time to bring monkey knuckles out of hibernation. to get an idea of what the toy is all about, you can see it in action on an old video clip..