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Double hinges are endlessly fascinating

Jacob's LadderWhen thinking about the categories I laid out in my previous toy post, the toy that immediately suggested itself to me was what I knew as “click-clack blocks,” though a bit of judicious Googling revealed that it’s more commonly known as a Jacob’s Ladder.

The principle behind it is the same principle responsible for the Magic Wallet‘s popularity some years back and, in a much more complicated form, for the workings of the Rubik’s Magic. Note the “magic” in both titles. In Yardsticks, a book about childhood development we read for class, Chip Wood writes that younger children are “pre-logical”—they grasp the world intuitively—so when presented with a toy that defies even adult intuition, they’re hooked.

For my first toy, I wanted to defy intuition. I built a Jacob’s Ladder-style toy out of duct tape that works in two dimensions rather than one and combined it with the magic wallet concept to give it a graphical element after watching this:

The funny thing, though, is that even in its conception the toy defies intuition. After painstakingly cutting out and gluing together 16 two-colored craft paper cards and securing them to the toy, they didn’t behave at all as I expected. They neither reversed nor moved between segments. Instead, it was the hinges themselves that changed their configuration so that a given segment might have two parallel strips running along its length in one state and two crisscrossing strips in another!

To take advantage of this in an entirely hypothetical second iteration of the toy, I would probably play with the strips size and ability to hide and reveal portions of images beneath them. I also got some great feedback from my classmates, who suggested:

  • increasing the scale so that the toy becomes more architectural/furniture-like
  • using the toy as an interactive picture frame for portraits of individual family members to help a child envision and reconfigure relationships among people by reconfiguring the frame
  • giving it some puzzle dimension, though I worry that puts it in competition with the nearly untouchable and aforementioned Rubik’s Magic

In the course of my research, I also stumbled upon kaleidocycles, a book of which I had as a kid though I’d forgotten all about them. They’re also counterintuitive and magical, so I made a series of them as well.

I want the toy that I eventually develop to tap into the fascination that both the paper toys and the double hinges elicit. I also really like this idea of envisioning relationships that came up in the discussion of the duct tape toy. Hmmm.


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