Do-It-Yourself Toy Science Program

Do-It-Yourself Toy Science Program

Libraries are always interested in programming that will attract boys as well as girls, and a science program where the kids make toys is a great way to appeal to a wide audience. Here are some crafts, games, and other activities that would be great for a “Make Your Own Toys” program, that use principles of science to achieve the goals of the program.

I recently volunteered at a program organized by librarian Bill Sherwood of the San Leandro Public Library, who has conducted programming for all ages – preschool storytimes, tween programming, teen book clubs and much more, as well as programming for adults. He is astute at planning original programs that appeal to boys (as well as girls). Many of the ideas seen here were copied from Bill. I also received a wealth of ideas on crafts from Christie Inocencio, who runs Christie’s Creative Cupboard (, who conducts programs at libraries around the Bay Area. She is mom to six sons, and really knows what type of programs appeal to boys.

If you use teen volunteers at each activity table, you can appeal to very young children as well as school-age children and tweens. It is nice to have a variety of things – not every activity or craft has to appeal to all ages. It is helpful to have some things a skilled older child can do, while their preschool siblings have something to do that appeals to them. Many of these ideas were adapted from postings on the PUBYAC listserv.


Balloon Race: A game for two contestants at a time. They hold a balloon between their knees, and race (waddle actually) from one line to another across the room. Fun and safe!

Wind-up: Another game for two contestants at a time. Tie two equal lengths of yarn to the back of a chair (about 6-8 ft. piece of yarn). Tie the other end around the contestant’s index finger. On “Go,” each person winds the yarn around his or her finger – first to get to the end of the yarn wins!

Lemon Race: Use a 6 ft. table. At the end of the table, the contestants (2 or 3 is best) place their lemon on the starting line. On “Go,” they push the lemon with a chopstick, trying to get to the other end of the table and across the marked line (use masking tape). If their lemon falls off the table, they have to go back to the start.

Balloon Ping Pong: Tape popsicle sticks to small paper plates, then have the participants decorate their “paddle.” Blow up balloons ahead of time – blow up lots of extras. Then, partner up with a “friend” to bat the balloon back and forth and see how long you can keep it in the air.

Paper plate Frisbees: Use the thicker or heavier paper plates, or Styrofoam plates if they are available. Have the kids decorate the plates using markers and stickers. Then, have a tossing contest – who can get it over the line 8 feet away?

Crafts and Activities

From Steven Engelfried, Youth Services Librarian

Wilsonville Public Library: . They have a guidebook with a wealth of science project ideas you can use for a Do-It-Yourself library program.

Engineering Activities:

Toys to Make:

Mini Marshmallow Shooter:

Marshmallow Catapult:


Ball in Cup:


Hackysack/Footbag: Kids can make their own following the instructions found here: or

Toilet Paper Roll Kazoo: Decorate paper roll. Cut squares of wax paper and put over one end with a rubber band. Take outside for a kazoo band parade.

Robot Racers:

Jumping Cups:

Finger weaving jump ropes:


Straw Rocket:

Comet Ball: Take one square of aluminum foil and squeeze it together in the middle. Tie four or five 30 inch long pieces of ribbon around the foil so that the ends of each ribbon hang down to form the comet’s tail. Squeeze the foil around the sides of the ribbon where the ribbon is tied to the foil. Wrap another 1-2 pieces of foil around the ball. If you have curling ribbon on your comet, make it curl. Throw the comet ball and watch the colorful tail stream out behind it.

Penny Peck, San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science

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