What is object manipulation?

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    Object manipulation is when someone performs by physically interacting with one or more objects. You can do this with many different kinds of props and they vary for each skill. For example, circus props include balls, clubs, hula hoops, rings, poi, staff, and devil sticks.

    We can also describe it as using an object in an unusually stylized or skillful way, or for a physical interaction outside of its socially acknowledged context or different from its original purpose. That can include using items such as cards, coins, pencils, balls, etc.

    Object manipulation techniques are used in many different performing arts and often also in creative activities. This skill is not unusual among young children and other primates (such as chimpanzees), but it becomes rarer with age.

    Types of object manipulation

    Different types of object manipulation can be grouped together and divided into a few categories. Let’s go over them in such a way that feels intuitive to most.

    Juggling, tossing & passing

    The first category is the most obvious and the one that has been explored in almost every aspect. Juggling, tossing, and passing are the most common types of object manipulation, they usually revolve around keeping an object in the air or moving it from one place to another. You can use bouncing balls to start throwing them down at the ground instead of the more traditional way of juggling balls in the air.

    Toss juggling is the most common type of juggling. Juggling involves handling numerous objects at the same time with one or many hands.Β 

    When people toss objects at each other, it is called passing. Objects that are used in a routine to enhance the performance are usually referred to as props. More extreme objects, such as knives, fire torches, or chainsaws are also used by some professional jugglers.

    Mostly known props for toss juggling are juggling balls, juggling rings, juggling clubs, knives, contact balls, hula hoops, bounce juggling, cigar boxes, flower sticks, devil sticks, diabolos, shaker cups, footbags or flair bartending.

    Spinning and twirling

    Our second category is more known between dancers, gymnasts, and jugglers. Spinning and twirling are, as the name suggests, all about rotating or moving an object around a pivot point in different patterns. The object spinning can be done directly by one or two hands, the fingers or by other parts of the body. It can also be done indirectly, using other objects to rotate your main prop (for example plate spinning, devil sticks, or flower sticks).

    Common props for spinning are staff, fans, buugeng, halfgeng, ringeng, diabolo, yo-yo, flags, poi, rope dart, club swinging, spinning plates, nunchaku, hula hoop, baton twirling, devil sticks, and flower sticks.

    Challenge your inner juggler - with halfgeng balance!

    Skill toys

    This is the newest category from these. Skill toys are also known as fidget toys. They are mostly used to develop new ways of manipulation while keeping the portability of the prop as easy as possible with its small size. They can be used as practice tools in the process of learning how to do certain tricks with other props. Skill Toys make practicing more fun and they provide you with a good way to make your skills even better and help you not to get bored anywhere or anytime.

    It can be as easy as the art of twirling a pen through one’s fingers at blazing speed and precision.

    Commonly used are kendama, astrojax, pen spinning, begleri, fingerboard, knucklebone, kururin, or finger roller.


    The last category covers skills that are not usually associated with other categories of object manipulation or juggling. Many of these skills use regular items such as dice, cups, lighters, cards, coins, dice stacking, whips, and clackers.

    This reminds us that beauty of object manipulations lies in its freedom of interpretation. You can pick apples to start juggling instead of professional juggling balls and turn your living room into a stage.

    Dexterity training does not have to be hard work; there are simple ways of learning. A person who is dexterous has practiced enough so they can do things like catching a ball, writing, or typing quickly.

    What is a good age to start?

    It depends. As we know, young children can have an urge to explore their surroundings by touching or playing with any object they find in their environment. It could be a positive thing if a child finds a ball and with the help of an adult starts exploring even the basic possibilities of how to throw and a catch. With higher age and better body coordination, the entry-level gets easier.

    Because of all the different juggle props available to you, there is no limit on the age if you choose a safe & proper prop for yourself or your small upcoming juggler. Who knows, you might discover a new free time activity or maybe even a passion and an ambition to break world records.

    How many objects to start with?

    Object manipulation juggling is the act of manipulating one or more ordinary objects in a variety of different ways mostly for entertainment purposes. It doesn’t matter if you are doing contact juggling with one object, learning how to juggle two clubs, or trying to set world records while juggling 14 balls as Alex Barron. As long as you are having fun and challenging yourself, there is nothing wrong with it. There is something for everybody in this juggling world.

    So what is your excuse for not juggling today? You can start with an easy object to catch such as balls or get your mind caught in exploring different forms and combinations of all the tools available to you. Remember it can be as easy as just a throw and a catch of an object.

    Numbers juggling

    You can explore all the different pattern options for tricks with as many props as possible. There are many tricks waiting for you to learn and master. For all of us, it starts with throwing and catching one ball.

    If you are curious the current world records for number juggling are:

    Juggling patterns & combinations

    It is all about moving objects around in a variety of patterns. There is an endless amount of possibilities and different skills that jugglers have mastered with their circus skills. Each type of object manipulation has its own terminology and a special way how to describe those patterns & paths.

    Some jugglers tend to add their own style and tricks of how to manipulate objects in different ways of patterns. These variations have been discovered over the years. Some are simple while some require a more complex series of throws or catches that form a special pattern or effect on stage during a performance.

    Object manipulation terminology

    Let’s take for example juggling. It doesn’t matter if you are juggling halfgengs, balls, clubs, rings, or cigar boxes you can still use siteswap terminology to describe juggling patterns only with numbers and letters. Anyone who understands how to read siteswap can recreate the original juggling pattern or use them to do even more exploration with that certain pattern. This approach helps your mind see and incorporate other things into it. Such as balance, walking or catching the ball middle air.

    For most of the spinning props such as poi, staff, fans, and buugeng most artists use Vulcan Tech Gospel (VTG). It allows for describing timing and direction as well as basic flower patterns. If you are more interested in this I definitely recommend watching the explanatory video from Drex.

    Many people have either tried or performed object manipulation to some degree out of mere curiosity. Others who take it seriously spend most if not all this time perfecting their body form and juggling patterns to advance their circus skills even further for entertainment purposes. There is nothing like having your audience enjoy the magic of a real juggling routine.


    With the sheer number of skills and tricks to learn in object manipulation, there is something for everyone. You can spend a lifetime mastering one skill or move on to explore another prop that interests you more. Juggling is an art form where every artist has their own story behind it. Whether your goal is to become a world record holder or just have fun with family & friends – there are many ways how you can use object manipulation as entertainment in any place at any time!

    Why not share your story about how this amazing skill has changed your life with the hashtag #objectmanipulation maybe you will help others discover this as well.

    Thank you for reading this article. We hope you learned something new and are considering object manipulation as a new hobby.