Creating images out of string has an almost magical quality that enchants children. Making a ladder or cradle out of an ordinary loop of string looks like sleight of hand. Even in these modern days, with television and other electronic distractions, children are fascinated by string games.

You can teach your children some of these games. Use a 4-foot piece of string that is tied into a loop. Begin with a simple design such as Cat’s Cradle. The Tea Cup and Cat’s Whiskers are other relatively simple games that are good for beginners.

Cat’s Cradle Involving Two People

1. If you are Person A, hold the loop of string taut by looping the string around the backs of your hands and holding your hands far enough apart to create tension. Make sure to leave your thumbs out of the loop.

2. Turn your palms toward you and wrap the string around each hand once, going from the back of the hand around the front (palm).

3. Then, with your palms facing each other again, take the middle finger of one hand and place it under the string that goes across the palm of the opposite hand. Pull taut by moving your hands apart again. Repeat with the other finger and palm. This will create two X-shapes in the string.

4. Hold the cat’s cradle taut while Person B grasps these X-shapes between his or her thumb and forefinger.

5. Person B then pulls the X-shapes out and around the edge of the cradle, then up through the middle.

6. Person B begins to pull his or her hands apart while spreading out his or her thumb and forefinger.

7. You slowly slip your hands out of the cradle, leaving Person B holding the cradle design.

8. You repeat steps 4 and 5 so that the cradle is around your hands again.

You can continue this and add other steps, but this is the basic concept.

Jacob’s Ladder is another interesting and well-known string design. It requires many steps that can seem a bit complicated, but you will get the hang of it if you practice. There are online tutorials, complete with animation or videos, to help you with learning the more complicated string games. Once you master them, you can teach them to others. You could present a string games program to your local Scout troop, or volunteer at an after-school program or home school co-op.

String games have been used for centuries in all kinds of cultures. They are a wonderful entertainment for children of various ages. They can help relieve the monotony of a long car trip, entertain a fussy baby, or provide interactive fun between friends. And don’t forget – string is not expensive, and it is easily transported.