But can you make balloon animals?

But can you make balloon animals?

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While I was visiting my family over the holidays, my sister shared a balloon-animal-making kit with me.  The kit contained a hand pump for filling the balloons, directions for making three different balloon animals, stickers to give your creations eyes, and of course lots and lots of balloons.  We immediately set out to make as many balloon animals as we could, at first following the directions included in the kit.  Here are two of my early creations, a dog and a mouse, made from the kit’s directions:

A dog and a mouse made out of balloons

Before long, we moved on to experimenting with making other shapes that we didn’t have directions for.  Giraffes, people, you name it–we attempted to create it out of balloons.  The results weren’t always easily identifiable, but they were always fun to create.  Better still, it only took us a couple minutes to get to the point where we could branch out from following the directions and start creating whatever took our fancy.

All of that got me thinking that balloon twisting would be an ideal maker activity for a one-off event or a pop-up makerspace (pun definitely intended).  The materials are cheap, it’s quick to learn but you can spend as much time experimenting and mastering it as you like, and the results are very visible and very likely to interest onlookers in participating.

Some quick Googling showed that plenty of public libraries are way ahead of me on this idea, sometimes offering balloon-animal workshops to kids as young as five.  Of course, I work in an academic library, so I wondered if there might be any kind of scholarly tie-in to balloon animals.  Sure enough, the great Vi Hart was there way ahead of me:


She’s even co-authored a paper applying graph theory to balloon twisting. Here’s Improbable Research’s summary of that article, if you don’t feel like reading the article itself.

After reading all of this (and getting hooked on making things out of balloons), I know I’m going to be pitching balloon-twisting to my library as an activity we should host.  Have any of you already done this?  Do you have any tips and tricks to make a program like this successful?  Leave a comment on this post, or tweet @MakerBridge.

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