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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!”

Easy to make wood spinning top

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 (Check the variety HERE) (must have a 1/4″ hole) something like these

Wooden Dowels (must be 1/4″ width) or these

Pencil sharpener or these
Clippers or saw
Variety of Markers or Paint or Spray Paint

The wheels and dowels can be purchased from Amazon. (links above)  You can get the dowels at 12 inches or 6 inches, but the width must be 1/4″ (that’s important) and you cut them down to 1 3/4″ to 2″ lengths.

Decorate the Wood Spinning Top:

If you need to make a lot and don’t have much time, you could use spray paint with any leftover paint from other projects.  Try something fun like a gold metallic!  We’ve painted some, but the vast majority are decorated by hand using a variety of markers!

ecorating simple wood spinning top

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 decorating.  If that’s all you have, you can make some lovely designs.  However, when you begin to layer colors, plain markers will muddy the colors, making them dull.  That’s when you can use extra fine-point paint markers like THESE.  They can cover over any color (even black) to make very special designs and make the wood spinning tops POP.

Designs can be very simple, or very complicated.  Even the smallest children can have fun.

decorate wood spinning top

Directions for the Dowel:

Cut the dowels in 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 used 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!  wooden hammer block for wood spinning top

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!

wooden jig for completing wood spinning top

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!

Pencil Cases with a wood spinning top

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 out 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 in 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 love to make crafts, check out all my other CRAFT POSTS.

If you want to learn a little more about Operation Christmas Child, you can check out my post HERE.

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8 Comments on How to Make a Simple Wood Spinning Top

  1. Wonderful idea, and a great craft for all ages. Fabulous to donate, like mentioned.

  2. I love the child shoe box donations! We do them every winter at my church and I love including handmade gifts in them. These are a perfect item to start including… and I believe my kids can get in on it too! BONUS! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for the ‘how to’! My uncle made these many years ago and I recently found one of them and coincidentally thought, these would be great for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes! The only thing I was uncertain about was the shallow spinning point he’d made by an unknown method. I see that you’ve had success with a pencil sharpener point, so I will quit fretting over “how’d he do that?” An idea for others: he painted all of his by spinning (before inserting dowel, -so using something that spun it) and dripping 1 or 2 colors of paint on it, giving it a splattered look.

    • Glad you found out! Yes it is amazing how well it spins with such a short point (or longer if the dowels are pushed in really far – it doesn’t seem to matter). And any type of designs works fantastic – so splatter would certainly work!

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