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Rainbow Loom toy craze bridges gender gap

The latest toy craze, Rainbow Loom, is booming in popularity for both boys and girls who are taking full advantage of the product during the Easter holidays.

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Not since children took to playgrounds with yo-yos or digital pet Tamagotchis has there been a craze that has jumped the gender gap like the latest schoolyard fad: the Rainbow Loom.

Using a crochet hook and fluorescent rubber bands, children string the pieces together to make intricately woven bracelets and other creations. The craft kit has become a worldwide hit since it started in the living room of an American crash-test engineer four years ago. They are so popular that some schools have banned the multi-coloured bracelets because they are distracting students.

Google confirmed Australian interest in the kit had ''exploded'', with a 350 per cent increase in searches for Rainbow Loom bands in the past two months. The product holds a coveted position on Amazon's best-selling toys list and earlier this year took out the highest honours at the annual Toy of the Year awards.

Sean Sands, of Monash University's marketing department, said his five-year-old son was ''obsessed'' with the toy. ''This has definitely crossed the gender barrier,'' he said. ''Toys are traditionally marketed towards boys or girls and the ones that cross over usually allow kids to be creative and give them a sense of identity and expression.''

Dr Sands said the craft kit appealed to children in the digital era because it was a ''hands-on'' and social toy. ''Kids still have a desire to touch and feel toys, compete, trade and socialise with each other. With the looms, they can take them to school to trade, which is just like marbles when I was at school.''