Thunk! Bump! Kerplunk!
When my tween started throwing half-filled water bottles all across the living room floor, my first thought was, What in fresh hell is this?
Like I need any more noise in my life — more repetitive, irate sounds to ask my kids to stop making right this instant. Plus, eww… Where had that water bottle been? And how long before it would burst and spill all over the carpet?
Soon after, I noticed the internet buzzing about this new craze my son was already immersed in. “Bottle flipping,” it was called. It turned out tweens all over America were doing it.
Allow my son to explain it to you (he thinks being interviewed for my articles is almost as fun as bottle flipping itself):
Basically, you take a water bottle and fill it about halfway to the top. You place it on the ground, or maybe on a shelf or a ledge for leverage. Then you toss the bottle up with your fingers. The aim is to get it to come down either on its bottom or its cap. If it ends on its bottom, we say it’s “landed.” If it ends up on its cap, it’s called “capping.”
So yeah. You do that over and over and over, until your parents want to flip you off.
But the thing is, when I see how much my son lights up when he talks about it, how it gets him onto the floor playing like he did when he was 3 years old, I start to do a happy mama dance.
I’ve recently decided that bottle flipping is the best craze to happen to kids since, um, Pokémon Go. Like Pokémon Go, bottle flipping is great because it gets kids out of their houses, into the world and socializing. But bottle flipping is even better because it doesn’t involve burying your face in a screen and walking into oncoming traffic.
Here are the top reasons why I’ve been totally won over by bottle flipping:
1. It gets kids off screens.
I don’t think I have to tell you that most kids are totally, certifiably addicted to screens (as are most grown-ups). Bottle flipping involves no screens whatsoever. You literally have no hands free to hold a phone or a different device. It’s equally addicting as screen time, though in a good way.
2. It gets kids socializing.
Most of my son’s playdates include a fair amount of sitting in front of separate screens playing video games next to each other. Bottle flipping has turned my son’s playdates into something else entirely. They’ll hang out in each other’s rooms, on the front porch, or the yard, flipping bottles and shooting the bull. It’s a beautiful thing.
3. It brings kids outdoors.
At my son’s school, bottle flipping is banned anywhere in school, but they can do it during recess and after school. So we are often staying late and spending more time on the playground lately. And a game of bottle flipping will lead to a game of tag or whatever else the kids come up with. Totally rad.
4. It’s eco-friendly.
Repurposing a plastic bottle into a toy is a brilliant idea, and teaches kids about “the three Rs” (reduce, reuse, and recycle). Mother Earth could always use a little extra love, as far as I’m concerned.
5. It teaches lessons in physics and gravity.
My son and his friends are constantly trying to test things out with bottle flipping. Will the bottles flip better on concrete? How about if they get tossed off the top of a bunk bed? (I try to stay away from these sorts of adventures.) The kids experiment with what happens when you change the water levels inside the bottle. Total mini-science experiments going on here. And the best part is that they have no idea that they are doing anything remotely having to do with academics.
6. It’s a sport you don’t have to be “sporty” at.
Not all kids like to spend their non-school hours shooting hoops or running track. And that’s okay. But bottle flipping is active and sporty without involving too much blood, sweat, and tears.
7. It helps with fine motor skills and focusing.
Take a look at a kid’s fingers while they flip a bottle. There are lots of detailed finger work going on there. It’s a great workout for the mind too. While the flipping itself results in a ton of loud annoying thuds, the kids are pretty silent, super cool, and totally focused while they’re doing it.
8. It crosses gender lines.
My son reports that he flips bottles mostly with other boys, but that the girls do it too, and that it doesn’t feel at all like a “boys only” thing to him. Awesome. We definitely need more of that.
9. It harks back to games from ancient times (i.e., our childhoods).
When my son flips bottles with his friends, I immediately think of playing jacks, double-dutch, Chinese jump-rope, and hopscotch. It’s easy to moan and groan about “kids these days” having no imaginations and being addicted to electronics, but maybe we shouldn’t jump so fast to those conclusions. Kids still enjoy the simplest pleasures of life.
10. It’s harmless.
When I told my son that I was writing an article in defense of bottle flipping, he said, “Why is anyone complaining? It’s totally harmless.” And I’ll give him that. I mean, I suppose someone could get knocked on the head by a full water bottle, but I think it would have to be dropped from a very far height for it to cause much damage. And yes, it can be deafening to the ears sometimes. But there are a whole lot more offensive and dangerous things I can think of tweens and teens doing.
So the next time you hear a thump that makes you want to poke your eyes out, stop for a second and remind yourself that your kid is occupied, out of your hair, unstuck from a screen, and maybe (just maybe) having the kind of magical childhood moments we all look back on wistfully.