I'm very excited to share the latest video from Kuma Films.. an incredible begleri edit, featuring some of the top slingers in the world... who (ahem) just happen to be sponsored by Aroundsquare. Extraordinary video and editing work, matched with incredible talents, and (ahem) some dynamite beads. Please check it out, and show your support to Kuma Films for making this happen. This video also marks the debut of our new Hydra begleri, which will be available Friday, October 15th, at 7pm Pacific time in our store.Read More
If you're looking for the forthcoming Titan begleri, you've come to the right place. If you're following Aroundsquare on Instagram, you have probably seen glimpses of the Titans--a titanium begleri set with a completely new bead design that has been refined based on all the experience and feedback since the Wukongs. They are extremely durable and very well weighted, and the bead design plays, feels, and looks amazing.
When Aroundsquare launched with Wukongs in collaboration with MonkeyfingeR, we presented something quite unique--an over-sized round begleri bead, unlike anything else on the market. The Wukongs quickly set a new standard for playability, and the design has inspired many of theRead More
A good while back, Aroundsquare started to take an interest in the art of cardistry. We observed, we dabbled a little, and mostly we wondered.. We wondered about the potential for new visual elements that could be incorporated into cardistry work if we threw out a lot of the assumptions that go into conventional card design. The result is The Concept. It's a deck of cards designed only for card flourishing, and nothing else. There are no numbers, no suits, no faces. The entire visual field is designed around possible visual effects.
These aren't for sale quite yet, but we've done up a test run of them, and we feel pretty good about how they turned out. Let's call it a "proof of concept". We've added a little write-up to our Goods page, but to save you clicking over, here it is below..Read More
Aroundsquare has been working on a little project behind the scenes for a few months, and it's time to post a little teaser. I've got okay focus when I need it, but I've never been a fan of just sitting still, and I've always liked having something to fidget with, and better still if there are tricks to learn. I grew up on yo-yos, but I would get in trouble for playing them in class. I spun pens, I doodled, I kept busy however I could. I wish I had known about begleri back in my school days.Read More
I've been a fan of Kuma Films for quite a while. I'm involved with a couple of skill toys communities online, and a year or two ago, I started to see these awesome videos circulating through the social media, with amazing shots, great editing, sick music, and more fundamentally, some really incredible skills from fantastic performers. After seeing their funky little bear logo a couple of times, I followed it to the Kuma Films channel on YouTube, and was blown away. I thought, "Maybe one day I could convince these guys to do a Monkey Knuckles video--I wonder how much I would have to pay them."Read More
Aroundsquare is freaking excited to announce a new partnership with Yomega for the production and worldwide distribution of Monkey Knuckles. For those of you who have been following Aroundsqare, you'll know that this is a project that's been in the making for over a decade. Monkey Knuckles was first developed back in 2003, and at that time, it was a crude handmade item, with a player community of one.Read More
One of the challenges of introducing a new skill toy is establishing a base of ideas so that people have some idea about the potential for what the toy can do. In the case of Monkey Knuckles, it's compounded a bit because the play is continuous. It's not like a yo-yo where there is a beginning and end to each "trick". With MK, there is a continuous flow and progression from one technique to the next. And there is no "reset" like in juggling or other skill toys where you make drop and start over... MK allows you to flow from one style to the next, and if you mess up one technique and miss a catch or something, there is almost always a way to recover and go on to a new trick without stopping. When introducing MK, I usually talk about styles of play, or ways of holding the toy, rather thanRead More
One of the questions people sometimes ask about the Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks is, "What are they for?" I usually respond with something like, "Weren't you listening?" You see, it's part of a bigger conversation, and one which reveals some fairly entrenched assumptions about what play is s'posed to be. We've gotten into this mode where we expect everything to come with instructions, or challenges, or goals. We get uncomfortable with too much freedom. It's like being out in the wilderness! Lions and tigers and bears, right? I'm of the other mind. I'm deeply afraid of what will happen if we let a generation of kids grow up always being told what to do, always working towards someone else's preconceived goals.Read More
Aroundsquare takes play seriously. We see it as an inherent drive to explore and experiment, and as a consequence, we see it as a critical part of how kids learn how the world works. With this as a starting point, we can begin to differentiate the different kinds of play. Most of the toys out there these days are directive. They're designed to either entertain kids while they sit passively, or they tell the kids what to do. Aroundsquare's toys are about the opposite. They are tools. They are platforms for expression. There is no right or wrong way to play, and they leave a lot up to the imagination. This kind of decision-making is critical for the development of fully autonomous adults, able to think for themselves, take initiative, and get things done.Read More
One of the common themes running through all the work of Aroundsquare is the idea of freedom within some kind of a structure. In discussion of cognitive theory, this freedom is referred to in terms of affordances--the available options for action or choice within a given context. Part of what Aroundsquare tries to do is to create structures which are empowering, and which maximize the available affordances.
The Goodwood Deconstruction Blocks are a good example of this. While classic building blocks are timeless and elegant in their simplicity, we've removed a few little pieces here and there, creating spaces where the blocks can fit together and balance in new and interesting ways. The geometry creates a kind of platform for expression. The additional affordances provide new options for exploration and discovery.Read More
As an independent toy developer, I am a little bit distrustful of department stores and other big retailers. And as a social entrepreneur, I have always preferred to partner with independent retailers. I was never interested in becoming a businessperson. I made my choice early on to go into the field of education, where I have worked for the 15 years of my professional life thus far.
But throughout this time, and starting much earlier, I've maintained an interest in well designed and open-ended toys, and a complementary interest in arts and crafts. I've been making toys in some form or another for the better part of my life. Most of that was just mucking around. Sometimes I would follow simple instructions in a craft book to make some kind of novel gadget. But more often, I would take inspiration from something else, either modding my existing toys or coming up with something entirelyRead More
Reposted from an interview for Fat Brain Toys...
How do you come up with new designs?
Design is a very hands-on process for me. It doesn't take place in my head. Since I was a kid, I have always been a maker. I have lots of tools and materials around me. Sometimes I will start with a small collection of materials,Read More
The Policy Landscape of Play
For all the work that Aroundsquare does in the fields of play, education, and international development, both practical and philosophical, we have never posted anything on this site about what is going on in the upper ups internationally. Turns out, it's not just kids that think play is important. Turns out, there is some interestingRead More
For anyone who has spent any time looking over this website, or learning about Aroundsquare, it will be clear that it's not just a toy company. Aroundsquare has a more fundamental concern with healthy development in general, the healthy development of children, and the healthy development of the societies we live in. Our toysRead More
Aroundsquare's Matthew Hiebert was interviewed recently by TDmonthly Magazine on toys and play and AO2's work as a social enterprise. Excerpt below, and full text at the link which follows.. enjoy!
Q. How do you hope your products affect children’s' lives?Read More
I grew up playing with yo-yos. I learned the basics on a fixed axel, and it was pretty mind blowing for me when I found out about sleeping yo-yos, with the string looped around the axel to allow it to spin at the bottom. Around that time, the world started to open up.. Tom Kuhn started making precision yo-yos out of aircraft aluminum, with ball-bearing axels.. Duncan took things forward with the freehand embodiment which uses a counterweight that the player can release, rather than having the thing tied to the finger. And it just keeps going.. now there are a whole bunch of small batch yo-yo makers which have introduced side-cap bearings--bearings on the outside of the yo-yo which let the player basically hold the yo-yo in their hand while it's still spinning.. there are off-string yo-yos which aren't even attached at the end of the string.. and micro-diablos which are basically a yo-yo that canRead More
Children are born with soft skulls--literally and figuratively. Politically incorrect, huh. But face it, children are designed, biologically, to come into the world prepared to absorb all sorts of stimuli and begin to make sense of it as information. They're not doing this through language.. it's much more like osmosis. In the early stages, they have no real cognitive filters. Their perception is pure and unstructured.
Slowly, their universe begins to coalesce, and take shape. They begin to recognize and make sense of things. But this is personal. It does not happen according to some universal law of human nature. Their cognitive infrastructure takes shape in relation to the world around them. It is their specific experiences which give it form. And since at this stage, children are not yet able to reflect critically on those experiences, it is important for adults to give someRead More
There are a lot of things I love about wood. I read a great essay on wood some years ago by Buckminster Fuller. The gist of it was something about how wood, biomass, is a translation of sunlight, pounding at the earth, year after year. Instead of just bouncing off or getting absorbed and becoming heat, a portion of that light gets grabbed by the little greens.. and those little greens use the energy to make stuff, real stuff we can touch. And over the years it builds up to the point where we have whole ecosystems with big trees and animals too. His point was that it's not just some big tree... the tree actually represents decades of stored energy, like a massive biochemical spring that’s been wound up, season after season. And all the more with the coal and oil underground. And so we shouldn't be surprised by some pretty dramatic effects when eons of stored energy are released in the space ofRead More