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How to Make Colonial Toys Such As a Whirligig

By Carmel Perez Snyder ; Updated April 18, 2017

Simple whirling toys were popular in early America. Children enjoyed the toys, which were often made from materials at hand, including buttons, wood and pewter.The spinning disk makes a soft buzzing sound, and some early mentions of the toy in literature refer to it as a "buzzer," but "whirligig" was the name most often used for the spinning toys.

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Using the paper and a marker, draw the design for your whirligig. Trace a shape using a cookie cutter design such as a circle, gingerbread man or flower. Cut it out.

Using the template you created, trace the design on the cardboard or wood. Use the scissors or knife to cut the design. This is the whirligig base.

After you cut the base out, use the emery board to sand all the edges of the whirligig base to eliminate any sharp edges. You can use sandpaper, but the emery board is easier to maneuver around the designs.

Use crayons or markers to draw a design on the finished whirligig. Repeat on the other side of the base.

Use hole punch to make two holes about an inch apart in the center of the whirligig base.

Use scissors to cut a 4-foot length of string. Take each end and string them through the holes in the whirligig base. Tie the ends together, creating a loop.

Hold an end of the string in each hand. Twist the strings. This should create motion and lets the whirligig spin in the middle.

Things You Will Need

  • Thin cardboard or wood
  • String
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Paper
  • Cookie cutters
  • Emery board


Use large colorful buttons as your whirligig base for a quick toy.


If you choose to use metal, ensure the edges are not sharp.

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About the Author

Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Texas. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist and writer for more than 13 years. Her work has appeared in newspapers across the country, the AARP Bulletin and eHow Garden Guides.

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