a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Oct, 2008

toy value, and, how to make rocket balls

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Archive of playground games|Oh! Things!

Mark took the girls with him to Canadian Tire yesterday to pick up a few things we needed. CanTire has a promotion right now called JumpStart. The money from the sales of a special $2.00 tennis ball (pictured here), will help kids in need participate in organized sports and recreation. A great idea.

Customers are given this info at the cash and asked if they want to donate. The cashier Mark got yesterday gave the girls each a ball and explained that someone ahead of us had bought a bunch of balls (20?) and had asked to give them out to the next bunch of children in line. Isn’t that nice?

The balls themselves don’t seem to be super-bouncy, which is important when you’re a kid with a ball in hand. But all is not lost. When you were a kid, did you ever play with a dead tennis ball wedged in the cut-off leg of your mother’s old pantyhose? I did, all the time.

It’s crazy simple:

  1. 1. Take a pair of old pantyhose and cut off one leg.
  2. 2. Push a tennis ball as far up into the toe as it will go.
  3. 3. Tie end.

That’s it. And, if you cut off the other leg, and stuff it with a second ball, you GET TWO.

I bet, if you were so inclined, you could tie a ribbon to the end to make a longer, fancier tail. For the sake of today’s post I’m calling this a rocket ball but I doubt that this is what it was actually termed. I think we just called it a-tennis-ball-in-your-mom’s-old pantyhose. (My mother bought ones that came in a plastic egg, remember those? Ha.)

Not only is the rocket ball great for winding up like a lasso and for throwing long distances, but we also used it to play with it against a wall, holding the loose end while flinging the ball wildly all around us. I’m fairly certain there was a song that accompanied this action – while the ball flew dangerously to either side, above our heads and between our legs – but it eludes me right now.

I was at Tiggywinkle’s (a local toy store) the other day and saw something similar. It was in the section of the store that has loot bag loot; smaller toys like wind-up toys, dice, paper butterflies, etc. This rocket-ball type toy was about 18 inches long (I’m guessing) and made of brightly coloured nylon. The toe (or what would normally be the toe if this was made out of old pantyhose) was a little more aerodynamic. It came down into a loose cone shape, which was also made of nylon and filled with some kind of beans. The cone was covered in a layer of foamy material, perhaps so it would hurt less on impact (?). It was pretty lightweight, and I wondered if it had enough heft to go any kind of distance. I glanced at the price, $1.99. Considering what it was, I totally thought that was a fair price and thought about buying it for the girls. 

I didn’t grab it right away, we were there on a birthday-gift buying mission, but I wandered over a second time and took it in my hand for a closer look. I realized I had misread the price. It wasn’t $1.99, it was actually $11.99. Twelve bucks for something I could make with a tennis ball in an old sock.

I didn’t see where it was made, but I’m willing to bet Tiggywinkle’s version isn’t made locally. It was probably made it China. I bet it cost a quarter to make and ship. I was disappointed. Tiggywinkle’s is pricier, I’ve always known that, but it’s one of the best toy stores in Ottawa. They carrry interesting toys that aren’t found at Toys R Us or at major department stores, and it’s in my neighborhood, which is primarily why I shop there. But this was such a blatant rip off. Gah.

But here’s the question, I’m wondering now, if it was made locally, would I have paid the twelve bucks? Or would I still shrug it off and make my own?

Regardless, I’m still going to save my next pair of tights (I have a silvery pair that is past its prime) and stuff it with a two-dollar tennis ball.

6 Responses to "toy value, and, how to make rocket balls"

1 | Catherine

October 5th, 2008 at 2:22 pm


I always laugh when I run across things we made as kids or were made for us. I have a sock pupet I have been lugging around for almost thirty years…and my grandmother madei t. It’s nothing fancy however now…OMG! those things cost like $40 (US) in some areas. and I’m just amazed. How in the world can you charge that much money for TWO stuffed socks??

2 | Lynn

October 5th, 2008 at 2:43 pm


I TOTALLY did that ball-in-the-sock thing. I remember one day I was banging mine against the wall (while standing in the middle, back against the wall) and the toe of my old-nylon split open and my ball flew all the way across the school yard. Oops.

I think the rhyme that went with the side-side-between-the-legs motion was something about Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear? Maybe?

I’m also reminded of the ice-cream-soda game we played around the same age with a ball. Once against the wall and catch it — ice cream. Against the wall, with one bounce, and catch it — soda. Gingerale was bounce on the ground, ricochet off the wall and catch. Pop was a single bounce on the ground. Then you’d have to repeat the whole circuit on one leg, or with one hand, or spinning around. Good times!

3 | porter

October 5th, 2008 at 8:38 pm


Ohhhh yeah I remember, wow I had totally forgotten.

I am willing to bet $11.99 that your kids (and mine) would have more fun making and playing with the homemade one than the expensive one made in China.

4 | Carole

November 9th, 2008 at 8:44 pm


OMG, I do remember playing with the ball in the stocking. I went to French school and the song was:

Je suis allée chez Mme. Lasalle
Mme. Lasalle
M’a montré sa salle
J’ai jamais vu une salle
Aussi salle
Que la salle
De Mme. Lasalle

And every time you said “salle”, you had to hit the ball against the wall under your raised leg.

When I do supervision in the schoolyard, I don’t see any kids jumping rope anymore. What a shame. And I don’t think there’s a spot on the wall where they can do the stocking thing…It’s all siding. Well, they did put in a brand-spanking new monkey bars set up…, though not the kind I remember. Maybe there were too many cracked skulls with the old ones; who knows.

5 | Penny

April 12th, 2009 at 3:14 pm


I really want to know the songs we sang to this game….anyone remember?

6 | Rebecca

October 5th, 2009 at 5:26 pm


My son is going to go crazy for this. 20 bucks says I get hit in the head first…so fun!

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