How to Make Mechanical Toys

Written by kelli karanovich
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How to Make Mechanical Toys
Channel your child's creativity. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Children are inundated by electronic toys inspired by television shows, but you may still find that a child's favourite toy is an empty box. Homemade mechanical toys bridge the gap between these two kinds of toys. Homemade toys have an authenticity that can stimulate a child's senses without overwhelming them. Usually based on cam devices, these toys can usually be made by older children with minimal adult supervision. The toys can be customised to appeal to each child.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Insulating foam
  • Straws
  • 1/4 inch dowels, 4 inches long
  • 3/16 or 1/8 inch dowels, 6 inches long
  • 1/4 inch craft foam
  • Index cards
  • Coloured card stock
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue
  • Markers
  • Construction paper

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  1. 1

    Cut the insulating foam and two sheets of construction paper into 4-by-8 inch pieces using utility scissors. Hot glue the construction paper to the foam. Take care to make sure the paper is smoothly adhered to the foam.

  2. 2

    Cut the crafting foam into an oval piece approximately three inches across at its widest point. Poke a small dowel into the foam off-centre and near the edge. Use a small amount of hot glue to secure the dowel. The oval will serve as your cam. A cam is an oval, round or irregularly shaped object on a shaft that serves as a weight or balance. In this toy, the cam will also serve as a type of crank.

  3. 3

    Hold the insulating foam vertically so that one 4-inch side is pointing toward the floor and the other 4-inch side is pointing toward the ceiling. Poke a hole about 2 1/2 inches from the bottom and poke a straw into the hole. Cut the straw so that about 1/2 inch is sticking out of the foam.

  4. 4

    Drive a dowel through the centre of the craft foam and into the straw. This should attach the oval piece which is serving as the cam into the insulating foam. Turn the cam using the handle you created in Step 2 and make any necessary adjustments.

  5. 5

    Cut a 1-by-1 inch piece of card stock. Hot glue this piece to the end of one of the longer dowels.

  6. 6

    Fold the index card in half and hot glue a piece of straw into the fold. Fold and straighten each end of the index card and hot glue these to the top quarter of the insulating foam on the same side as the cam. The end result should look like a little tent.

  7. 7

    Thread the top of the long dowel through the "tent" you created in Step 6. The bottom of the dowel should rest on top of the cam.

  8. 8

    Craft a foam image to place on top of the long dowel. This image will appear to move back and forth when you turn the cam. You can make a fish, turtle or other creature. Decorate your creation however you wish. Then, secure it onto the top of the long dowel with a bit of hot glue.

  9. 9

    Decorate the unadorned side of the foam. You can place decorations near the top, so it appears that the image on top of the dowel is interacting with the scenery. For example, you can construct waves if you made a fish. You may make an image of the sun if your dowel if topped by an image of the Earth. That way you create the effect of the Earth moving around the sun. The only limit to this is your imagination.

Tips and warnings

  • Attach your toy to a base for added stability.
  • Make sure to cut away from your body when using utility scissors.
  • Hot glue can cause serious burns. A hot glue gun should only be used by adults.

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