On a trip to a historical house museum, one of the toys for kids to try was a whirligig spinning toy. The kids loved playing with this wooden, old-fashioned toy and watching it spin around as they twirled and pulled the string to watch the spinning action.
As it turns out, it's easy to make your own whirligig spinner out of a circle of cardboard, string, and our (optional) printable whirligig template. It's perfect for old-school, screen-free fun.
How to Make a Whirligig
Fortunately, this old-fashioned toy is easy to make from a piece of cardboard straight from the recycle bin! You can use our printable template, but it's not necessary. In fact, most kids will enjoy designing their own patterns for their whirligig rather than using the template.
- Glue Stick
- Template (if desired). Fill out the form below with your information and we'll send one right over to you.
- Something to use as a round pattern, like a glass or small bowl.
If using the template, print it, cut out the circles and place on the cardboard. Trace the circle on the cardboard and cut out.
If not using the template, use a glass or small bowl to trace a circle on the cardboard. Cut out the circle.
Using the markers, color in a pattern on the whirligig disc or template. Put a design on both sides. Patterns that work well for a spinning toy are swirls, checkerboards, and alternating lines.
If using the template, glue one to each side of the cardboard circle.
Finally, use the scissors to poke two holes on either side of the center of the whirligig and thread a long length of string through the holes, knotting the ends.
How to Spin the Whirligig
Holding the ends of the string, spin the whirligig around and around. Once you have it going, pull the yarn in opposite directions, but not too tight. The circle should spin fast and you can look at your decoration to see how it looks different in motion. Experiment with keeping the yarn tight, or giving it a bit of slack.
MORE: Now that your kids have made one old-fashioned spinning toy, try this cool diy spinning noise maker!
About the Whirligig Toy: History and Science
It turns out the whirligig, or spinner, has a long history. Both the ancient Greeks and Native Americans are known to have played with spinning toys that resemble the diy whirligigs of today. They could be made from buttons, bone or wood.
It sounds like the word, "whirligig," is made up, doesn't it? In actuality, it's composed of "whirlen" (to whirl) and "gigg" (toy/top), both from Middle English. Plus, it's a word that's just tons of fun to say.
Some whirligigs where designed so that the friction causes by the spinning action made a buzzing sound. Our DIY buzzing spinning toy is another example of how that science of sound works.
Originally published 2009, updated 2023