Yo-yos are a classic American toy, and while they might look simple, they hold many surprises in store. There are a few qualities to consider when selecting one, including the shape and material. With the right yo-yo and a little practice, just about anyone can become a master of the yo-yo.

How does a yo-yo work?

A yo-yo is more than just a toy. It's also an energy-converting machine. When kids play with these toys, they're tapping into potential energy, kinetic energy of movement, and kinetic energy of rotation. As these toys go up and down, they are engaging in an energy exchange that’s similar to roller coaster cars careening around a track.

What shapes do yo-yos come in?

There are three standard shapes:

  • Classic: Classic yo-yo balls have the standard round shape that’s associated with these toys. They can be used to perform all the classic tricks.
  • Modified: This shape is streamlined and small, which makes it an excellent choice for tight tricks. The inside walls are rounded, which produces a wider gap. This is helpful for people who love to do string-style tricks.
  • Flared Gap: The flared-gap style is constructed so that the ball has a v-shaped space, which enables players to catch the ball on the string. This makes it a standard choice for intermediate and advanced players.

What are yo-yos made out of?

Most of these toys are constructed from metal, plastic, or wood. Which material you select will depend on the look and aerodynamic capabilities you want.

  • Wood: Wood is the material of classic yo-yo balls, and it gives these toys a timeless appeal. However, it's not as aerodynamic as other materials, which can make tough tricks even trickier.
  • Metal: When yo-yo balls are made from metal, it's typically aluminum. The aluminum gives these toys weight that helps enhance spin-time. These eye-catching toys are for experienced players.
  • Plastic: Plastic is a commonly used material because it's durable and easy to mold into an aerodynamic ball. Plastic yo-yos are available in just about every conceivable color and style.

Are there different types of axles?

The axle marks the spot where the yo-yo ball connects to the string. It's also responsible for keeping the two halves of the yo-yo clamped together. There are several varieties:

  • Transaxle: These fixed axles are surrounded by freely turning sleeves that give the yo-yo a good spin.
  • Clutch axle: This axle makes use of centrifugal force. That means that the toy feels like it "wakes up" when it returns to the player's hand.
  • Ball-bearing axle: Ball-bearing axles are surrounded by a bearing device that vastly increases the length of spin times. Many high-quality yo-yos are outfitted with this type of axle.