Slinky - A Classic Baby Toy

A Familiar Rhyme

What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound?

A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's Slinky.

It's Slinky, it's Slinky. For fun it's a wonderful toy.

It's Slinky, it's Slinky. It's fun for a girl or a boy.

It's fun for a girl or a boy.

Although most children today probably don't recognize the lyrics to this advertising jingle, it was a familiar rhyme to children in the post-World War 2 era, and, with some modifications over the years, has remained the theme of one of the most favored toys in the world - Slinky.

Slinky's History

In 1943, Richard James, a naval engineer, was working on a project using tension springs when one of the springs fell to the ground. He saw how the spring kept moving after it fell and the idea for a toy came to him. He told his wife that he could make a toy from a spring and after two years of developing it, he had what he was after. Slinky got its name from Betty James, Richard's wife. She discovered that "slinky" is defined as a Swedish word meaning traespiral - sleek or sinuous. The word seemed to sum the toy up very well, and the name Slinky became synonymous with the coiled wire or "lazy spring" that stretches and can bounce up and down.

They took their toy to Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia for the 1945 Christmas season and all of the 400 slinky toys they had with them sold within 90 minutes, for $1.00 each. The toy's affordability was a major concern to Betty James who wanted it to be available to financially disadvantaged customers. To this day, Slinky toys remain affordable and a constant in the homes of people with children, and without them. You can purchase metal Slinky toys and they are also available now in plastic versions.

How Many Tricks Can It Do?

Slinky tricks abound - from the waterfall to traveling down stairs, end-over-end, stretching and reforming itself with the aid of gravity and momentum. Little children play with the Slinky dog, in its various incarnations, by pulling it along as the front feet stretch it out and the back move it in, like an accordion. The Slinky Train was one of the first metal Slinky pull toys, and along with the Slinky Dog, remained popular children's toys for many years. The dog was redesigned for Pixar's Toy Story movie in 1995, and subsequent sales soared once again. Today, the Toy Story Slinky Dog is still a favorite toy and promises to sell well for the holidays this year. Beside metal Slinky toys, plastic Slinkys are also available. The advantage to the plastic Slinky is that it has less of a tendency to become deformed and it is more flexible allowing it to be reversed end-to-end without tangling.

From Babies to University Students - To NASA

Slinkys are not only popular for children, Slinky physics is taught in high school and college science classes where they are often used to simulate the properties of waves. During the Vietnam War, the US troops used Slinky as antennas for mobile radios and NASA has used them in the Space Shuttle for zero-gravity experiments. They have been used as musical instruments by making waves as they are stretched out.

Suitable for Babies and Used as Therapy

However, the best part about Slinky toys is that they make little children happy. A baby or toddler can play with a Slinky for ages and not tire of it. They are used in therapy with infants who suffer sensory loss, particularly blindness. Jill Brody, M.A. OTR, of the Blind Children's Center, Los Angeles, California, says, "When a child has a sensory loss, it can be challenging to find toys that are both appealing and functional...for children with significant visual impairments, a toy with an appeal which is primarily visual is not going to be motivating for extended play, although it may be manipulated briefly." For vision impaired babies from birth to six months, along with lightweight rattles that make noise easily when the baby shakes them, clutch balls with bells inside, Plastic Slinky toys are favored. Since babies after six months tend to be teething, playing with a Slinky should be monitored closely.

Slinky has been around for 75 years and continues to be one of the most loved and best toys for children of all ages.

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