Museum of Science and Industry

Make Toys from Around the World

Children all over the world play with toys. Here are instructions for making three different toys, some that are centuries old. All of these toys use principles of science to work. Have fun!

What You'll Need

For the daruma doll:
Small, solid rubber ball            
Index card
Small saw
Pattern (PDF)
For the toss and catch:            
Small paper cup            
Spool or large bead            
Paper clip
Pencil (optional)  
For the tumbler:
Index card
Cardboard or file folder            
Pattern (click here to download and print)

What to Do

Daruma doll
Use the small saw to cut the rubber ball in half. If the ball is hollow, fill it with modeling clay so that it's a solid half ball. Trace the pattern onto an index card and cut it out. This pattern works well with a smaller ball. Make the pattern bigger if you have a bigger ball. Roll the index card so it forms a cone and tape the seam together. Tape the hat to the flat part of the half ball. Draw a face on your doll and give it a push.

Toss and catch
Tie one end of the string to the paper clip. Poke a small hole or slit in the bottom of the cup with the paper clip. Push the paper clip through the hole so the paper clip lays on the bottom of the cup and cannot go back through the hole. Tie the spool to the other end of the string. Hold the cup in one hand, letting the spool hang down. Try to flip up the spool and catch it in the cup. To make a more challenging version, attach a pencil to the string instead of a spool. Hold the pencil and and try to flip the cup onto the pencil. You also can try using smaller cups.

Cut a strip from the index card that's about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long. Roll the strip into a cylinder that's a bit wider than the marble. Glue or tape the cylinder together. Trace around the end of the cylinder to make two circles on the cardboard. Cut them out and glue or tape them to both ends of the cylinder - make sure the marble is inside! Draw a face on the cylinder. Use the pattern to trace and cut out the body on felt. Cut a slit as indicated in the middle of the body. Slip the cylinder through the hole. Place the tumbler in a sitting position on top of an inclined board. When you let go, he'll tumble head over heels to the bottom.

What's Happening?

Daruma doll: The heavy base keeps the doll from tipping over because the base has a low center of gravity (the point where all the weight seems to be concentrated). It is hard to knock over an object with a low center of gravity. The rounded base always brings the doll back to an upright position.

Toss and catch: Practice allows the brain to predict where the flipped spool will come down and will guide the hand to catch it. This is similar to how a baseball player learns to catch fly balls. Games like this taught people of long ago to be good hunters.

Tumbler: Gravity pulls over the seated tumbler. As it falls forward, the marble shifts to the top of the head. This shift in weight helps pull the tumbler’s head down and flip its body over. The marble then falls to the bottom of the head, pushing the tumbler to an upright sitting position, where the process begins all over again.

These and other toys are found in:

Folk Toys Around the World and How to Make Them, by Joan Joseph (Parents' Magazine Press with U.S. Committee for UNICEF, 1972)
Games of the World: How to Make Them and How to Play Them, edited by Frederick Grunfeld (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975)

Museum Hours
  • Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas
More Information

Museum Location
Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
Getting Here

Buy Tickets Online

More Exhibits

  • Exhibit
  • Science Storms

    Feel the physics and consider the chemistry of natural phenomena like tornados and avalanches.


Get our e-Newsletter!
Subscribe to the e-Newsletter
connect with msi!