Zap! It's a Tongue Depressor, Then Snap! It's a Bracelet—Kids Would Sell Their Mother for a Slap on the Wrist

updated 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Next to the crack of a well-tuned knuckle, there's nothing more likely to set a teacher's teeth on edge these days than the telltale snap of a Slap Wrap. Now playing in classrooms near you, the Slap Wrap, which looms very large in the K-through-8 set, is a nine-inch strip of steel encased in brightly colored, gaily patterned fabric. Laid out flat, it looks like a ruler. But knock it against an arm or a leg and it coils like a snake. Presto! Instant wristband or anklet.

"Almost all kids are into slap bracelets," says Joseph Longobardi, principal of two elementary schools in Pelham, N.Y. "Many wear four or five of them." Alas, with anything this cool you know the grown-ups are going to start throwing a fit. Longobardi recently banished the bracelets from his schools after learning that a kindergartner in a nearby town had received a cut from a band. Another injury to a 4-year-old Wallingford, Conn., girl caught the attention of that state's Department of Consumer Protection, which led Illinois-based Walgreens to withdraw the novelty item from its nationwide chain of drugstores.

Yet no sooner had this snap judgment been made than the protection agency found that the culprit was not the original Slap Wrap, marketed by Main Street Toy in Simsbury, Conn., but a cheesy knockoff made in Taiwan and rushed to the U.S. while Main Street was putting its product through safety tests. "Slap Wrap bracelets are absolutely safe," declares June Neal of the Connecticut DCP. "Parents should have no qualms about buying them for their children."

That is, if they can find them. Retailers nationwide say they can't keep either the Slap Wrap, which sells for $2 to $3, or the slapdash $1 imitation in stock. That's despite the fact that Main Street is shipping 200,000 units a week. "It's snap, snap, snap all day!" complains Pittsburgh middle-school teacher Nancy Hoover, who may remember when fads used to be quieter. If the Hula-Hoop isn't good for an encore, maybe it's time to bring back Pet Rocks.

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