Do you want to learn how to make a pinwheel with just a piece of paper, a pencil, scissors, and a pushpin? Do you also want to learn about forces and winds and enjoy a few little experiments to extend the learning with your pinwheel?
Well, keep reading because I’ve got you covered!
Making a classic pinwheel is a wonderful way to learn all about the wind. We can feel the wind on our skin, but when we see how it can cause objects to spin or move, we can gain a real understanding of the power that wind can have.
In fact, this activity is one of the hands-on activities from my Weather Family Unit Study. In my unit studies, we take one big topic, like the Weather, and break it down into 10 manageable, bite-sized learning topics. This format gives you the freedom to dive into learning at a pace that works for your family.
Want to take a closer look at a unit study? Download a sample right here:
How to Make a Pinwheel
For the craft, you will need:
- A square piece of paper (I like to use origami paper)
- A pushpin
- A pencil (with an eraser on the end)
I have tried quite a few variations on the classic pinwheel over the years—bending a straight pin into the top of the pencil eraser, using a dowel, securing the pinwheel with a brad onto a straw, and all different types of paper—but I keep coming back to the classic.
This method is simple, easy, and I always seem to have the supplies on hand (which is often half the battle!).
Okay, let’s get to the step-by-step.
As I mentioned above, I like to use origami paper—it’s already square, and the size is perfect to use with a pencil.
If you start with a rectangular piece of paper, simply fold one corner over, like in the photo below, then cut off the bottom.
Now fold your paper from corner to corner both ways, making an X.
Cut down those fold lines until you are around an inch from the center. You don’t have to be too exact with that measurement; just make sure your cuts are each about the same distance from the center.
Next, I like to pre-poke holes for the pushpin. This makes it so much easier to bend the paper and hold everything together without it all slipping through your fingers. Trust me on that one.
So, poke a hole in every other point, as well as in the center of your piece of paper.
Carefully bend one of those points toward the center and put the pushpin through it. Bend the next point and put the pushpin through that hole as well (so it is under the first point). Keep going until all four points with holes are on the pushpin.
While holding those four points so they don’t fall off, put the pushpin through the center hole and into the eraser on the end of your pencil.
You’ll want to make sure it’s pushed in far enough that it won’t fall out, but loose enough that the pinwheel can still freely spin.
And that’s it. You did it!
Blow at your pinwheel, aiming into the cups to make it spin—or take it outside on a windy day and let the wind do its thing.
Pinwheel Extension Activities
Did you know that most pinwheels have the blades arranged so that when the wind blows straight at them, they spin counterclockwise? This is because the blades’ ‘cups’ are made so that the oncoming air is captured and pushes the blades in that direction.
As your child tries out their pinwheel, you might ask:
- When you blow straight at your pinwheel, what way does it turn? Clockwise or counterclockwise?
- Can you make it spin in the opposite direction?
- What happens if you blow at it from the side?
- Can you find ways to make your pinwheel spin faster?
- What happens if you use a different-sized piece of paper?
I hope you and your little ones enjoyed this classic childhood craft that is packed full of learning opportunities!
If you want even more ideas like this—hands-on activities to learn all about the weather—you’ll want to check out my Weather Family Unit Study. From the water cycle to tornadoes, weather forecasting, climate, and everything in between, your little meteorologist will love it!
Take a peek right here:
Thank you so much for reading, sweet friend,
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