Toy Making: Part 1

For several weeks, our first graders have been exploring concepts like “balance” and “spinning” by building toys. Their making combined experimentation, observation, engineering design, and design thinking. And it went something like this:

Building a Balancing Crayfish

Calling it a “crayfish” is sorta killing me, being from Louisiana (down there, it’s a “crawfish”), but I guess out here it’s a crayfish, so I’ll try to manage.

I remember these toys from when I was little—a plastic eagle (or some other animal) that you could balance by its beak on the tip of a pencil, while the rest of it floated effortlessly in the air. Our students built their own balancing crayfish from card stock and clothespins.

Students cut out crayfish from manilla folders. Then their teacher challenged them to balance their crayfish on their fingers. First on the flat surface:

Balancing Crayfish

Then on the edges:

Balancing Crayfish

Because balancing on the edge is harder, students were given two clothespins each, to experiment adding to their toys. In between working,  students came together for discussions, and observation time, during which they agreed that: 1) objects with more weight near the bottom have better balance, and 2) spreading the clothespins out works better than if they are right next to each other.

Balancing Crayfish Balancing Crayfish


After getting their toys to balance, they recorded their observations in their journals, and tried a design thinking challenge: What could you add or change about your crayfish to make it a different kind of toy? Students had to write and draw their ideas, which included adding wheels to their crayfish to make cars, and coloring their crayfish, to use them as stencils.

Crayfish Journal Crayfish Journal

Later this week, I’ll post Part 2: Top Making.



David is the documentarian and professional development coordinator for the Creativity Lab. In 2014, he received a BA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, with focuses on short fiction and screenwriting. In partnering with New Orleans-based independent film company, Asymptote Pictures, his work has been featured in film festivals across the country. He likes his espresso maker, and vegetarian tacos.