The Project

Toymaking is about playing, you do not need toys to play but introducing a toy is a sure way of initiating play.

Self made toys are empowering and can be suprisingly simple to make.

The Website

Our objective for the site is to inspire, resource and support people making or teaching toymaking.

We would like to build the site up to having 100 toys, 40 pages of materials and 10 of tools.

We would like each page to have a clear, simple attractive representation of the toy and then direct users to download the instructions.

The spinning top toy is the best example of what we are aiming at.

The downloadable instructions would be split between: 

  1. User instructions, simple and preferably in cartoon format (as a pdf).
  2. Teacher instructions, to help with fixing problems and developing the toy further  (as a pdf) and include the science behind the toy.
  3. Possibly a third sheet with limited writing to go with the cartoons but allowing clearer instruction aimed at older children.

Videos could show making each toy at a bench and on the 'street' and video  clips of different variations as well as commercial made variations to inspire development of the basic construction.

Each page would have links to similar toys, and links to the appropriate tools, materials and techniques required and the science principals demonstrated.

Ideally the pdfs should also be available in local languages.

This is currently beyond our resources to execute, and we very much welcome any ideas and assistance.

The Project

The Project has changed in the light of experience.

The web site is now being aimed as a place for downloading instructions and not for making directly from the online information

Toymaking has always been successful whenever there is a teacher to facilitate, without a teacher success has been limited to very able children only.

We feel our role is to empower and equip teachers with the resources required to make toys and run workshops.

Much of our experience with teachers has come from working with trainee teachers at Bonga Teacher Training College in Ethiopia, it has not been possible to follow up as to what their problems of implementation have been.

To make the project sustainable it would be ideal for teacher training colleges to take over the teaching.  It has become clear that this type of teaching is not within the experience of any of the lecturers, they have neither experienced or taught practical subjects. They are enthusiastic makers though, but do not fully understand the significance of this style of teaching.   It is government policy to introduce hands on learning, but little support for how to achieve it. This makes for added difficulties in the short term and probably in these circumstances requires a much longer term strategy than this project can manage.

The project would improve for A further triaL An english speaking region would make the feedback much easier.

The value of toymaking to empower all people has been well demonstrated and is always very rewarding.


The reallity of teaching in rural areas of Africa pose additional difficulties.

The present trial is to equip the new teachers with:

  1. A basic tool kit.
  2. Cartoon instructions for students to use with as little writing as possible. These should be laminated and available for the children to handle and study.
  3. Teacher notes that have a reduced copy of the cartoon instructions and additional information to help with  'whats gone wrong' and ideas for devloping the toy. 

Both of these need to be translated into the local languages to reduce barriers.

Except for in 'club' situations we do not expect making to be possible in the school due to the size of classes.

We suggest:

  1. The teachers show the toy and make one in front of the class, hand out the cartoon instructions for the students to study and discuss.
  2. The children would then attempt the toy at home. The results would be brought back to school and a discussion of the success and failures initiated.
  3. The teacher would demonstrate making the toy again and the students go home and try again. 
  4. After a period, and with getting peer to peer teaching, most of the children should have succeeded.
  5. The teacher can then encourage the more able students to produce the variations.

It may prove to be better to train teams of toymaking specialists who could go in to the school on a regular basis and introduce the learning over a number of years.  This could be a possible approach for a research project.


Our original mode of transmitting toymaking, still useful in some situations, especially clubs. 

The style of the spinning top is how we would like the book to be when there is the resources to remake it.

The file size is too large to include as a download. Please email for further information.

The Future

A lot of field work has been done for this project.

We need to prove a system that is viable for teachers by running a trial with proper monitoring and evaluation.

With these results it should enable us to get funding to be a comprehensive project covering all situations and countries where it is appropriate. 

The project should work well as an additional resource for community development projects needing to facilitate innovations with locally available resources.

Please contact me if you have ideas for applications for this project.


We aim to promote toymaking around the world using easily available materials and tools.  The website is to be a central resource where useful information can be accessed on toys, tools, materials, crafts, and teaching. 

Using the website we would like to build up to an international community of people interested in making toys, whether as a child, parent, teacher, enthusiastic amateur, beginner or professional expert, to exchange ideas, tips, advice, support and encouragement.

This site is our best guess at what we will need.  When fully functional we hope people can easily add  to the site, and send in photos and stories to compare and contrast with others in different cultures.

The site should develop to become an online reference for makers in all the different materials including clay, papier mache and remelted plastics as our expertise grows.

In the light of experience gained the focus has moved from the web site developments to developing a strategy to allow teachers to introduce toymaking to their students.

Most of our work has been put into finding an appropriate strategy that can cope with large, 60+, class sizes, teachers with no experience of practical teaching and a small or no budget. 

The Ethiopian government has committed all schools to a pedagogical approach to teaching but has not been able to offer a practical program to implement it.

This challenge has been  acknowledged by Bonga College of Teaching in the Kaffa region of Southern Ethiopia, they approve the principal of all graduating teachers  trained and equipped to introduce toymaking but at present it is not incorporated.

The video though fun and informative does not cover the new direction but it's only a couple of minutes long and has great toy clips.


Other steps

Add youtube videos of toys being made.

The web site needs to illustrate what we have been doing at schools and teacher training colleges better. 

The teacher support material is being worked on and most toys have a reasonable version in basic and teachers format.

The new toy making instructions, done in as nonverbal a form as possible, will be used to replace the existing downloadable instructions.

Our aim now is to create a workable package for teachers and look into getting it adopted in other areas.

There has also been interest in the possibility of expansion into arts, crafts and science experiments which can fit in with this format.