My yo-yo experiment

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Like so many other adults today, I’m very concerned about our children’s sedentary life style. During my classroom lessons I often encourage my students to turn off the television, computer, and video games and get outside and play. I like to ‘introduce’ them to some of the toys that were used quite often years ago: Frisbee, hula hoop, ball and jacks, and my favorite, the yo-yo.

In an effort to get children interested in the yo-yo I decided to try an experiment based on modeling. We’ve all heard many versions of the quote, “Children learn more from what we do, not what we say.” If we want our children to eat well, exercise, and have good character, then we need to model it. I purchased a new yo-yo and took it to school. For the month of January I carried it everywhere in school. As I walked up and down the halls kids saw me playing with it, doing several tricks. I kept it on the desk in my office for kids to look at and play with. I took it to faculty meetings and outside on the playground where kids asked if they could ‘try it.’ During class lessons I told students the history of the yo-yo. Did you know it is considered the second oldest toy in the world? The doll is the oldest. Images of yo-yos can be seen on the walls of ancient Egyptian temples. In the 16th century hunters in the Philippines used it as a weapon to hunt animals. The hunters tied a rock to a string, hid in trees, and threw the rock at animals. If they missed, they pulled it back up (like a yo-yo). Kings and queens used the yo-yo to relieve stress. French prisoners were given yo-yos to keep them from going insane as they waited for their visit to the guillotine.

By the end of the month I began to see more and more yo-yos at school. Yo-yos were common sights on the playground. Some students proudly shared their new toys with me while others, afraid of getting caught by their teacher, slowly pulled theirs out to show me. Visitors to my office wanted me to show them how to use one. Students who passed in the hall would ask me to do a trick or two with my yo-yo. If they didn’t see my toy they would say, “Mr. Carr, where’s your yo-yo?’” Kids asked, “Where can I buy one?” One boy told me he received an eBay gift card for Christmas and used it to buy two ‘fancy’ ones.

One day a second grade teacher stopped in the hall and said, “Give me your yo-yo!” I thought I was in trouble. I thought she might be angry with me for getting all the students distracted with yo-yos flying around the school. Instead, she started walking the dog, going around the world, and rocking the baby. Students circled around to watch her show. Many mouths were wide open in amazement. After a few minutes she gave it back and said, “Thanks!” The crowd dispersed. I know her performance added fuel to my experiment.

I plan to continue my experiment for another month. I hope to see even more kids playing with the yo-yo. Wouldn’t most agree that we’d rather have our child outside playing with a yo-yo instead of snacking on junk food while watching television? Yes, modeling is very effective in changing the behavior of children. Oh, by the way. When was the last time you played with a yo-yo, threw a Frisbee, or moved your hips in a hula hoop? Remember, your kids might be watching!

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