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For many years I worked as an aide at a local Pre-K and Nursery. Playing with simple toys was relaxing and fun, especially in a world with stimulation overload. Wood blocks, coloring, and clay were some of the favorites among the little ones. Kid powered, not battery operated! It always was the simple toys they loved the most. Knowing this, my friend Cynthia decided 10 years ago to create a fun toy to include in our Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. A wood spinning top was easy and inexpensive to make, and even the youngest could get them to spin! She calls it “The Simple Toy that Brings Great Joy!”
How to Make a Simple Wood Spinning Top
Gather your supplies. For each wood spinning top you will need a wooden wheel and a wooden dowel – that’s what you grab on to to make them spin.
Supplies – Wood Spinning Top:
Wooden Wheels (must have a 1/4″ hole)
Wooden Dowels (must be 1/4″ width)
Clippers or saw
Variety of Markers or Paint or Spray Paint
These wooden wheels come in bags of 100 or 300 from Amazon. I had found some in Michaels in the past, but they only have larger sizes now. You NEED to have the 1/4″ hole to fit your dowel.
The dowels can be purchased from Amazon HERE. You can get them at any length but the width must be 1/4″ (that’s important) and you cut them down to 1 3/4″ to 2″ lengths. I was also able to pick up some at Dollar Tree – HERE. (At last check they were out of stock online – but may restock?)
Decorate the Wood Spinning Top:
If you need to make a lot and don’t have much time, you can spray paint them using any leftover paint from other projects, or you can use something fun like a gold metallic! We’ve painted some, but the vast majority are decorated by hand using a variety of markers!
If you are doing a small amount, it can be the most calming experience to color and draw. Children can have fun and even adults. It would be similar to the adult coloring craze or Zentangle drawing. Take your time and enjoy! A simple design can take 10 minutes, and a more complicated one, 45 minutes while you get to use all your favorite colors.
Use permanent markers. I use Sharpie Markers to start the decorating. If that’s all you have, you can make some lovely designs. However when you start to layering colors, plain markers start to muddy the colors and make them dull. That’s when you can use fine point paint markers like THESE. They can cover over any color (even black) to make very special designs to make the wood spinning tops POP.
Designs can be very simple, or very complicated. Even the smallest children can have fun.
Directions for the Dowel:
Cut them to 1 3/4″ to 2″ lengths. (However others cut them longer and they work just as well.) You can use a saw if you are doing a bunch. We used garden clippers and they worked quite well. We leave the wooden dowel the original wood tone, but you could color them as well.
To make the spinning point – use a pencil sharpener! I’ve used a wall-mounted one and an electric one. I’ve also use simple inexpensive ones like these that I pack in my pencil cases for my shoeboxes. Don’t make a sharp point like a pencil – just a general narrowing at the end. You will be amazed at how well it will spin!
Each wheel and dowel are slightly off size. Most dowels can be dry fitted into the wheel. Cynthia’s husband cut a small piece of scrap wood and made a small hole in the middle. By placing the wheel on top with the dowel in the center, it takes just one or two pounds of the hammer to push them in. It would be much more difficult without that little jig he made!
Some dowels might be a tad thinner or the holes in the wheels a tad larger. Then I would put a touch of glue to secure them. (Hot glue or E6000 is the easiest and would be strong.)
What to Do with A Wood Spinning Top:
These are fun to make and fun to play with. They spin so easily! Even the youngest child can do it! But this wood spinning top is also great to donate!
We put a wood spinning top into each pencil case packed into Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Last year Cynthia’s number was over 5000, which meant A LOT OF TOPS! Through the previous years, she has enlisted a large number of volunteers to help. There was the man who cut the dowels. Then there was the local 4H, scouts, local schools, women’s clubs, senior center and neighborhood children that decorated them. People would pick them up by the hundreds to finish at home. Finally, we had a very dear man who was experiencing early dementia who assisted in hammering the dowels into the wheels. He loved being a vital part of the process.
Each group was thrilled to have a hand in the project and be used by God to bring joy to another. For more info about gathering a group to help, check our my post HERE.
This would also be a perfect craft for VBS, Sunday School, Scouts and craft group craft. It’s a great way to have children participate your family or church Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and make them feel they are making a contribution!
Idea for a FUNDRAISER with Wood Spinning Tops:
We held a meeting to teach our local churches how to make “A Simple Toy That Brings Great JOY” and packaged up little bags to sell. We put 10 wheels, and 10 dowels in a baggy and sold them for $5. They flew off our table!
You could also include one as a little extra in any backpack programs, foster care presents, adopt a family, etc. A local group provides Birthday events for children living in homeless shelters. We shared about these tops and they are going to be using them as crafts to entertain the kids at the parties. Check out Birthday Wishes
If you want to learn a little more about Operation Christmas Child, you can check out my post HERE.
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