New Witness to Revolution: The Unlikely Travels of Washington's Tent special exhibit now open. Info & Tickets

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Boredom invites people to use their imaginations by making games out of common materials. What if you just had string and a button? Whirligigs operate on simple physics: after spinning the whirligig on itself, the toy uses momentum to spin back on itself repeatedly.

If the user continues to pull and release the strings, it can spin back and forth continuously. Kids, camp followers, and soldiers alike loved whirligigs because they were so easy to make. Archaeologists even find them in places where people lived and worked, like forts and soldiers’ campsites.

You can make your own whirligig with supplies around your home! Download full printable instructions to make your own whirligig and take it for a spin. 

Make a Whirligig

Materials Needed

  • Printed PDF template
  • One piece of cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • 2-foot length of string


  1. Print the two circles from the template on card stock.
  2. Using one of the template circles, trace and cut out a medium-sized circle from cardboard.
  3. Glue the card stock circles on either side of the cardboard circle. Wait for the glue to dry.
  4. Decorate your circle with markers or cut designs into the edges.
  5. Punch 2 holes into the center of the circle.
  6. Cut string 2 feet long.
  7. Thread string through the holes so that it creates a loop and tie the loop at the end.
  8. Holding each end of the string, spin the Whirligig until it is tight. Alternate releasing and tightening the string to make it spin. Keep trying! This toy takes some time to master!

Share your completed whirligig with us @amrevmuseum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The whirligig craft was originally released as part of the Museum's Virtual Spring Break programming, sponsored by PECO, which ran online in April 2020, featuring do-at-home crafts and activities, virtual story time, Artisan Field Trip living history interviews, and live Q&As with Museum staff.

Be sure to follow the Museum (@amrevmuseum) on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for daily content and updates.

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