How to Make a Spinning Top Toy

Written by axl j. amistaadt
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How to Make a Spinning Top Toy
Create visual interest with coloured circles on your spinning top (spinning colours image by Yali Shi from

Spinning top toys have been amazing children throughout much of recorded history, and they're often referred to as folk toys. These simple devices are actually powered by their own momentum--the scientific notion that moving objects tend to stay in motion. This is an engaging art project to share with your youngsters. The bonus is that you can quickly make this amusing and entertaining toy using nothing more scientific than common household items.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Scissors
  • Plain paper
  • Compass, quart jar or empty plastic margarine tub
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Empty cereal box or other lightweight cardboard
  • Old towel
  • Crayons, markers or glitter pens
  • Sharpened pencil
  • Clear tape

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  1. 1

    Use a compass to draw a 3 1/2- to 4-inch circle pattern on a plain piece of paper. If you don't have a compass, trace around the bottom of a quart jar or empty plastic margarine tub. Cut the circle out with scissors and find its centre. Fold the circle in half and then fold that into half, forming a pie slice shape. Open the pattern up and mark the point where the folds bisect with a dot.

  2. 2

    Use scissors to cut along one of the folds of an empty cereal box. Open it up and flatten it out into a single sheet of cardboard, unprinted side up. Trace the paper circle onto the box. Press a ballpoint pen firmly into the centre mark of the pattern to copy the exact point onto the cardboard below. Repeat five times. Avoid making circles on the fold creases in the cardboard.

  3. 3

    Spread an old towel that you're not afraid to ruin out on your working surface, and fold it into several thicknesses. Place the cardboard on top of the towel. Press the tip of the ballpoint pen firmly through the centre mark of each circle to puncture the cardboard completely. Cut the circles out with scissors.

  4. 4

    Ask your child to decorate one of the cardboard discs with bright crayons, markers or glitter pens. Suggest that stripes radiating outwardly from the centre will produce fascinating visual effects when they spin. Show him how to draw graduating circles of assorted bright colours around the diameter of the disc for another variation.

  5. 5

    Poke a sharpened pencil through the centre hole of each cardboard disc. Press them all tightly together to form one thick disc, with the decorated piece on top. Secure them with four small pieces of clear tape spaced evenly apart. Scoot the disc downward toward the point of the pencil and position it right above the sharpened area.

  6. 6

    Tape a piece of paper to a flat surface. Hold the shaft of the pencil between your palms so that the top is perpendicular to the paper. Rest the pencil point on the paper.

  7. 7

    Press the pencil firmly between your palms, and quickly move your right hand a couple of inches backward as you release the top. The toy will draw little scribbles on the paper as it turns.

  8. 8

    Slide the disc about a half an inch upward on the pencil if the top wobbles very weakly or spins erratically and try again. Experiment with different positions until you're satisfied with the spinning results.

Tips and warnings

  • While a single cardboard disc component will work for this project, the greater mass created by additional discs creates more momentum. More mass in motion means a more stable top that will produce better spinning performance.

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