The yo-yo is thought to be one of the oldest toys in the world, they’ve been around and up and down for roughly 2,500 years.
Round, Round, Get Around. The world’s first yo-yo was invented in ancient Greece round about 500 to 400 BC. We don’t know exactly who worked out that two discs (made from metal, clay or wood), an axle and a piece of string could be so much fun.
The word ‘yo-yo’ isn’t ancient Greek but probably comes from the Philippines, where yo-yoing was popular for centuries.
In the late 1700s the yo-yo finally arrived in Europe. They were known as bandalores or quizzes in England, and also ‘the Prince of Wales’s toy’, and became fashionable with posh people.
By the 19th century Americans were playing with yo-yos.
In the 1920s Pedro Flores, originally from the Philippines, began to make and sell yo-yos in California. A businessman called Donald Duncan bought the yo-yo company, trademarked the name and advertised the toy. He also made some improvements to the design, making yo-yo tricks easier to do.
The yo-yos became so popular that Duncan’s factory produced 3,600 yo-yos an hour in the 1930s.
The toy has gone in and out of fashion since then and various improvements have led to new and ever more flashy tricks. Every year the World Yo-yo Contest takes place, drawing competitors from all over the globe to perform in eight different categories.
Space, 1985: Yo-yos were taken on board the space shuttle Discovery, as part of the Toys in Space project, to observe the effects of zero gravity on yo-yoing. In 1992 the space shuttle Atlantis also had yo-yos on board, in order to film a video of slow-motion yo-yoing!