From Silly Bandz to friendship bracelets, kids of all generations have shown they love to make and wear fun designs.

And one of the newest crafting trends, Rainbow Loom, is sweeping the country, getting kids to go gaga and sending stores into a supply crunch.

The bracelets are made up of a series of tiny rubber bands that kids can twist together with their fingers or the official plastic "loom."

York County parents described their kids as Rainbow Loom "addicts," "champs" and "entrepreneurs," and the activity has more than a few lauding the bracelets' versatility and learning potential.

"This is neat because you can use your imagination to create whatever you want," said Mark Carr, 42, of York Township.

Ella Wetzel, 12, displays some of the rubber band bracelets she made at her Shrewsbury home on Wednesday. The Southern Middle School seventh-grader has
Ella Wetzel, 12, displays some of the rubber band bracelets she made at her Shrewsbury home on Wednesday. The Southern Middle School seventh-grader has been making the popular bracelets for the past two years. (Bill Kalina photo)

His son, Maxwell, 10, has even used different color combinations for football season and created pink bracelets for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"I think what they like most about it is the different kinds of bracelets you can make," Carr said.

More than bracelets: Heidi Thomas, 35, of Manchester Township said the bracelets offer more than just fun.

Her 5-year-old son is left-handed, so she said she has struggled to help him tie his shoes and work on his dexterity. But since he uses his

fingers to make the bracelets himself, Thomas said he has improved his coordination.

"And he actually has increased and gotten more confident in his fine motor skills," she said.

Her daughter, an 8-year-old aspiring fashion designer, has been discovering new ways to create with Rainbow Loom, crafting real-life accessories like belts and hair ties, Thomas said.

"I think it's going to be a mainstay because it's so versatile," she said.

And it's also an activity that brings family and friends -- both young and old -- together, said Amanda Stiles, 35, of York Township.

Her 10-year-old daughter loves to create different patterns with Rainbow Loom, she said, and she even shared her knowledge with 4- and 5-year-olds at a birthday party.

"Several moms said they thought they were too young, but the concept is very simple, so they're able to do it at a young age," Stiles said.

And making a bracelet only takes a few minutes, said Robin Spinner, 38, of West Manchester Township.

"It's very quick to make a bracelet," she said. "So you start and you finish a craft project, and you have that feeling of being successful."

And there's not many supplies involved -- or even much of a mess to clean up afterward, Spinner said.

"For busy moms that want to do something quick with their kids, I really think this is perfect," she said.

A lasting trend?: Rainbow Loom has drawn many comparisons to Silly Bandz, the crazy-shaped rubber bracelets that reached the peak in their popularity a couple years ago.

"I like them better because Silly Bandz, you just put them on," said LaStacia Smith, 34, of York City. "With these, it gives (kids) a chance to be creative."

Her daughters, who are 7 and 11 years old, have taken a liking to them. One has even channeled her inner entrepreneur and started selling her creations for $1 apiece, she said.

"And people actually buy them," Smith said.

That could be because the materials to make the bracelets are jumping off shelves at craft stores like A.C. Moore.

Earlier this week, the chain's Manchester Township location had only about 20 packs of bands left, and the looms sold out last week, said Deb Dowell, manager on duty.

"It's crazy," she said. "We get numerous phone calls about them every day."

The trend's popularity started to really grow about two months ago, Dowell said.

"It's a little bit bigger craze than Silly Bandz because the kids are actually making them," she said.

Often times, fads fade more quickly than they get started. But people are already saying they want to buy them for Christmas gifts, Dowell said.

"This one really could be one that's gonna last longer than the other ones," she said.

--Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.