Lauren Grabow has 144 colorful rubber band bracelets. Every day, the 9-year-old third-grader at Babylon Memorial Grade School picks 10 from the box on her dresser to wear.

Kids with the bracelets have plenty of choices - kangaroos, octopuses, dolphins, trains, letters, numbers, pirate ships, princess crowns, unicorns, trumpets, saxophones, footballs.

They can be neon, glow-in-the-dark, glittery or tie-dyed.

The bands are the latest collectible craze, and they appeal to boys and girls, preschoolers and high school students. They're often referred to in general as Silly Bandz, because that's the brand of one of the major manufacturers. Kids trade them, play with them, give them to friends.

"Kids can't get enough of them," says Barbara Goldfarb, manager at MJ Beanz toy store in Plainview. Recently, MJ Beanz sold 300 packets in a day, Goldfarb says. Most cost $2.99 for 12, $4.99 for 24.

WHAT'S THE POINT? 

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You're supposed to trade them. Jenna Vretsky, a 16-year-old junior at Massapequa High, says one of her friends even traded bands with Donnie Klang, a Levittown resident who was a contestant on MTV's "Making the Band 4," when she bumped into him on Tobay Beach. "Now she has a famous person's Silly Bandz," Vretsky says.

Sometimes people give them to buddies. "I just wear them because my girlfriend gives them to me," says Reuben Espada, 16, a junior at Massapequa High.

Don Regan, a 19-year-old student at Nassau Community College, pokes fun at his friend Shannon Paskett, a 17-year-old senior at Massapequa High, who is wearing seven on her wrist, including a shark and a horseshoe. "If it was a real rubber band, it would be more logical, because you could use it to do something," says Regan.

"I used them as a hair tie," counters Ariela Straussman, a 16-year-old sophomore at Massapequa High, taking the blue dinosaur she has around her wrist and making her hair into a ponytail.

WHICH ARE HOTTEST?

Mystical creatures, which include a Phoenix, along with tie-dyed bands, glow-in-the-dark or glitter bands. "The white ones are rare, so everybody wants white ones," says Sarah Wiatrak, 9, a third- grader at Paul J. Bellew

Elementary School in West Islip. She treasures her white dog-bone band.

One company is coming out with Mets and Yankees bands, says Goldfarb, of MJ Beanz, and she says she expects those to be popular.

DIFFERENT TYPES

A variety of companies distribute the bracelets, including Top Trenz in Bay Shore. "If I had 20 million pieces today, I could sell them in 20 minutes," says Jamie Glassberg, Top Trenz vice president. Other brands include Bandzmania, Silly Bandz and Zany Bandz.

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HOW DO THEY KEEP THEIR SHAPE?

The bands are made in molds, and the silicone keeps its shape after being stretched, says Jamie Glassberg of Top Trenz.

SAFETY

Some are really tight and leave a line on the skin, says Alyssa Mankiwicz, 11, of Babylon, who has 14 on one wrist and eight on the other. But that line is harmless, says Dr. Michael Grosso, a pediatrician and chief medical officer at Huntington Hospital. What he does warn is to keep the bracelets out of reach of infants and toddlers, who could put them in their mouths and potentially choke.

SCHOOL BANS

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A number of schools have banned the rubber band bracelets, including some in Deer Park, Kings Park and Commack. The bans have affected customers' buying habits, says Samir Kumar, part owner of Ronnie's Stationery in Lindenhurst. "They buy less than before," he says.

WHO'S BUYING THEM? 

"It just hit, and hit every age group," says Goldfarb of MJ Beanz. "We were shocked that 18-year-old boys were buying them."

Antonella Antonacci of Dix Hills just bought animal packages for her daughter, Giulia, 8, and son, Christopher, 5. "All her (daughter's) girlfriends are trading them on the bus," she says. Antonacci, who owns Once Upon a Treetop, an indoor play center for children in Plainview, says she wants to sell them now in her establishment.

They're also hot at Massapequa High School. "It's something to think about other than SATs," says Nicole Grimaldi, a junior. "It makes us feel young again," says Nicole's classmate Angela Beklian.