When I was younger there was a show on TV called Pinwheel and it started with a song. I’ll forever know the lyrics – “Pinwheel, pinwheel, spinning around. Look at my pinwheel and see what I found.” Pinwheels have a sweet innocence about them but there is also science behind why a pinwheel spins. And there are skills needed in order to put one together. So when we tackled how to make a pinwheel we were rewarded with some fun learning opportunities!
Why does a pinwheel spin?
A pinwheel is essentially a wind turbine. When the wind hits the pinwheel “blades” the wheel turns. Wind turbines are used to generate power so that when the blades turn, a shaft is turned to create energy. A windmill is a type of wind turbine and can be used to perform function, such as grinding grain. With this activity it’s easy to teach little ones about the power of wind and renewable energy sources.
When your pinwheel is complete, show your little one how to make the wheels move by blowing through one of the blades. Now hold the pinwheel upright and walk with it. You’ll see the pinwheel move just by the wind created by walking.
To learn more about how wind turbines work, visit the website of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Skills needed to make a pinwheel
This project involves cutting and placing pins through small holes. Most of the tutorials call for a sharp pin which could be dangerous in little hands. This project is best for bigger kids with better fine motor skills. But that doesn’t mean that little ones can’t assist a parent or enjoy the final product.
How to make a pinwheel – our quick and easy version
Our quick and easy pinwheel only requires 3 things:
- Paper – square shape. Origami paper works well but we used construction paper
- Pushpin or tack, I used a garbage bag tie for one and a piece of wire for the other
- Stick, skewer or dowel work well, or if you’re like me just a drinking straw
To make our pinwheel I took a piece of construction paper and folded one corner to the opposite edge. This is how I squared it up. If you have origami paper or scrapbooking paper, this typically already comes in a square so you can skip this step.
Cut the excess off.
Fold the square piece like the below. This will be our cutting guide.
Cut on each of the fold lines until about 1 inch from the center. In the below you can see black marks where I stopped cutting.
Now in every other corner, poke a hole using your wire. Remember you just want every other corner.
Now thread those 4 corners onto the wire. You’re going to lay them one on top of each other.
Gather them so they look like the below. I then twisted the wire in the front of the pinwheel so the paper couldn’t slide off.
I then took a drinking straw and poked a hole straight through it using the wire. I made the hole about a half inch below the edge. Using the wire poking through the back of the pinwheel, I threaded that through the straw. Again I made a little twisty knot to make sure the wire wouldn’t slip back through the straw.
Here’s the completed pinwheel. It doesn’t look like some of the fancy pinwheels but it only required 3 things, all of which we had lying around the house! And sometimes it’s not about what it looks like, it’s about the learning experience and the final product.
More Pinwheel Tutorials
There are many great tutorials on the web. Here are a few that give step by step instructions with pictures to help you out.
This tutorial on Leslie Tryon’s site is very easy and only requires a few tools. The step by step illustrations are perfect for a kid to follow.
- One Little Project has an amazing pinwheel tutorial that requires a glue gun. There are detailed pictures to take you through the creation process step by step. What I love about this pinwheel is the ease at which it turns and the color paper she used.
- On the Raising Wild Ones blog you’ll find a rainbow pinwheel. This one is great because it’s less conventional with 6 blades.
- The Polka Dot Bride has an all paper pinwheel (except for the split pin). I love the choice of scrapbook paper for the pinwheel. With a pattern on both sides you can get some cool effects.
- These paper pinwheels require a bit more time and a lot of different supplies. But you can see that the finished product is something to be proud of. If you’re looking for pinwheels to include in decorative centerpieces or thinking of using them in lieu of bouquets for a wedding, these are the pinwheels for you!
- If you don’t feel like holding your pinwheel, or if you have some rambunctious boys you need to entertain, try these “parachute” style pinwheels from Buggy and Buddy. They require a wine cork (I know I have plenty to spare) and look like a ton of fun!
I must admit my 2 year old was not interested at first but once she realized that just walking around could make it spin she got more into it. It truly is amazing how you can harness the power of the wind. Learning how to make a pinwheel was both fun and informative, even if I ended up having more fun than she did.
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