Making toys can also be a good way to teach. Making a simple whirligig opens a window into the lives of children hundreds of years ago. Relive that history and more by making simple toys and games with your children. You can also teach your children about weather by making a simple weather vane from basic household objects. According to the UAF Geophysical Institute, a weather vane always points in the direction the wind is coming from. The pointed front presents less surface area to the moving air and turns to point the wind direction.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Large wooden button
- Piece of twine, 18 inches long
- 2 medium sized buttons
- 2 disposable plastic plates
- Wooden dowel, 48 inches long, 1/2 inch in diameter
- Cardboard tube from a wire coat hanger
- ¾ inch roofing nail
- Small metal washer
- Hot glue gun
- Felt marker
Remove the cardboard tube from a coat hanger. The tube will be the shaft that rotates when the wind moves the weather vane.
Measure the cardboard tube to find the centre and mark the spot with the felt marker. This is the pivot point the nail will go through.
Cut a large shape out of one of the disposable plates with the scissors. This is the rear panel of the weather vane. You can make the front and rear panels any shape you like as long as the rear panel is larger than the front.
Cut a smaller shape out of the other disposable plate to make the front arrow of the weather vane.
Place the shapes down on a flat surface and place the cardboard tube down across them. Have the ends of the tube extend about half way across the middle of each cut out shape.
Apply hot glue to the cardboard to attach the front and rear panels of the weather vane. Allow the cut out shapes to dry flat on the table. This will keep the vanes aligned with one another.
Poke a hole through the centre point of the cardboard tube with the roofing nail. Wiggle the nail to ensure the tube moves freely around the nail.
Slide a small washer on the nail and hammer the nail into the top of the wooden dowel rod. Leave enough room between the cardboard tube and the nail head to allow the weather vane to spin freely. Your weather vane is now finished and ready to be placed on a fence or in the ground.
Slide a medium sized button onto one end of the twine. Tie a knot in the end of the twine to hold it on the string. Tie another knot on the other side of the button.
Slide the large button onto the other end of the string. Let it rest in the middle. The large button will provide the whirligig action.
Slide the other medium-size button onto the free end of the string. Tie a knot in the string on each side of the button to hold it in place.
Place the string behind the medium-size buttons between the first and second fingers of both hands. Spin the large button around to put tension on the string.
Pull your hands apart to release the wound-up string and listen as the whirligig spins and buzzes.
Tips and warnings
- Large brass coat buttons make good whirligigs because they make a louder sound. You can find more weather learning activities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
- Supervise your children closely when doing crafts projects to prevent accidents. Always have an adult handle sharp tools and hot glue.
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