The art of balancing is no small feat! Try making a homemade balance toy for a hand’s on experiment and game exploring physics.
One of my favorite games to play as a kids was “Don’t Tip the Waiter.” Anyone else out there play this game? It consisted of a cardboard waiter holding a tray above his head that players would place cardboard food on and try not to tip. If you caused the waiter to tip over and spill the food you lost. My brother and I loved this game and I didn’t realize at the time that it was a great physics lesson in balance and equilibrium!
Please note: This post was originally created for PBS Parents Crafts for Kids and the original instructions are no longer available on their website. I’m including the original directions here now
- 1 ½” wood block
- 12” Bamboo skewers (2) per toy
- Beads with large center holes Colorful wood beads and animal beads are hard to resist!
- Acrylic Paint and brush (optional)
- Drill & 3/16” Drill Bit
- For the stand: A sturdy toy wood block or full water bottle
Make the parts (Adults only)
- Step One Drill a hole in the center of four contiguous faces on your wood block.
- Step Two Cut out the skewers in half and trim the tip of the pointed end of the skewer. Do not cut the pointed end off completely! A tapered end makes for easier threading.
Assemble the toy (Kids)
- Step Three Place the skewers with two blunt ends in two adjacent holes in the wood block. Place the skewers with the tapered ends in the other two holes with the pointed side exposed.
- Step Four Take a chunk of clay and roll it into two balls. Each ball should be abut 1 ½” in diameter. Place one clay ball on each of the blunt ended skewers.
- Step Five Place your toy on a stand/support and make sure it is balanced. If it is tipping to one side remove bits of clay until you get the toy balanced in the center.
How to play
Place beads on each of the upper skewers and try to keep the side balanced while you do it. Notice how small changes affect the balance of the toy and adjust accordingly.
The science behind this toy
Our Balance Toy demonstrates the concept of equilibrium, which is the state of balance between forces on opposite sides, in this cast the weight of the beads.
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