How to Build a Child's Windmill

A child's windmill is a bright and colourful toy that is quick to build from simple materials. Sometimes called a pinwheel or whirligig, the toy has a long history. According to the Dailypress website, children in Jamestown played with toy windmills in the 17th century and in Yorktown at the time of the American Revolution. Shakespeare seems to have the child's spinning toy in mind when he writes of "the whirligig of time" in his comedy "Twelfth Night."

Draw a diagonal line across the square of card stock, using a pencil and ruler, to link two opposite corners. Draw a second diagonal line to link the other two corners. Where they cross, the two diagonals make four smaller lines radiating out from the centre.

Put a pencil mark 1/2-inch from the centre of the square, on each of the four radiating lines.

Cut from one corner along a radiating line, using scissors. Stop cutting when you reach the pencil mark 1/2-inch from the centre. Cut the other three radiating lines in the same way. You have made four triangular flaps, all linked at the centre.

Bend one outside corner of a triangular flap into the centre. Leave the other outside corner unbent. Do the same with the other triangular flaps, bending every alternate corner into the centre.

Put a dab of glue on the centre point and press the four bent-over corners down onto it, until they stick firmly. A windmill design, with four pointed sails will now take shape.

Thread the small plastic bead onto the panel pin. Push the bead right up to the head of the pin. Push the panel pin through the centre of the windmill, until it meets the small plastic bead. Thread the large plastic bead onto the panel pin behind the windmill shape to keep it in place.

Lay the wooden dowel on a work surface. Place the point of the panel pin on one end of the wooden dowel. Tap the head of the panel pin gently with a small hammer, until the pin fixes firmly into the dowel. Do not nail the panel pin too tightly to the dowel, or the windmill will not turn freely.

Blow on the toy windmill, or set it up in a breezy place to see the sails turn.


Push toy windmills into the pots of container plants to add colour and interest to a garden or balcony. Trick out toy windmills in bright colours with glitter or paint and use them as decorations for holidays, festivals and parties.

Things You'll Need

  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • 6-inch square of brightly coloured card stock
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • 1-inch panel pin
  • Small plastic bead
  • Large plastic bead
  • 1-foot wooden dowel
  • Small hammer
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About the Author

British writer Martin Malcolm specializes in children's nonfiction. His books include "A Giant in Ancient Egypt" and "Poetry By Numbers." His schoolkids' campaign for the Red Cross won the 2008 Charity Award. A qualified teacher, he has written for the BBC and MTV. He holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of London.