Cat’s Cradle sure wasn’t invented in the 90s, but if you didn’t play it at least once in your childhood, you’re a dirty liar.
Cat’s Cradle is only one of many of the given names for this string game. Others include Candles, Jack in the Pulpit, and Scratch Cradle (a name that dates all the way back to the 1850s—just shows again that we children of the 90s sure can’t claim this game as our own, no matter how much time we whiled away playing it!).
The point of Cat’s Cradle was to make different designs and patterns using a looped piece of string. The string wrapped around each of your hands, and using your fingers, you would weave the piece between your fingers to make designs. It was a way to make pretty pictures (and we all like pretty pictures!) and didn’t require a lot of effort and certainly didn’t require a lot of equipment.
I think that’s part of the reason it was so popular—how easy it was. You could make the ‘instrument’ out of anything—space string, a stretchy headband, a shoelace, a lanyard. You could play at any time, and you could play by yourself or with a partner (in order to make the more complicated designs). The accessibility made it a very popular thing to play in school.
Some of the more complicated designs include the Cat’s Cradle itself (although what a strange name—how many cats do you know that sleep in cradles?), the manger, the candles, just to name a few. The easiest? Probably the Witch’s Broomstick, or the Teacup and Saucer, both of which could be made with just one player and only a few moves.
Of course, despite it’s simplicity, there were still the companies that tried to make money off of this concept. I remember quite a few ‘Cat’s Cradles’ books from my childhood, which showed step by step how to make some of the designs (which was especially useful for the hard designs), and gave you your own ‘special’ string. Y’know, for those of us who were too good for the shoelace.
I was never very good at Cat’s Cradle, and couldn’t make the more complicated designs, but I’m not going to lie—I still make the Witch’s Broomstick out of the lanyard that’s attached to my keys.