the benefits of playing with spinning tops
Spinning tops are a fantastic traditional toy. Firstly, spinning top games are great for developing fine motor skills, hand strength and concentration in children as young as 2 years old. Secondly, they’re the original fidget toy. Playing with one helps with anxiety, stress relief and focus in both children and adults. Third, they’re small size means they’re very portable and can be easily kept in a bag or a pocket for playtime on the go.
Let’s face it, tops are fascinating. This makes them a practical and fun way to introduce children to scientific concepts such as gravity, momentum, friction and more. If you introduce pattern and colour, they can also be used to explore colour mixing and optical illusions.
And last but definitely not least, they’re an open-ended toy. If a toy is described as open-ended that means it’s up to the child to decide how they want to play. There are no hard and fast rules with spinning tops so they can be used in lots of different ways. This is great for inspiring curiosity and imagination.
So get more out of your spinning tops with these super easy, fun game and activity suggestions.
spinning top games
- the spin challenge?
Time your top and see how long you can spin it for. Keep a record of your best time and challenge yourself and others to beat it. Alternatively, go head to head and see who’s top can spin the longest?
- trick spins
Where’s the trickiest place you can spin your top? Can you get it to spin on your palm? On the back of your hand? What about your knee? How about spinning your top in a bowl or on the bottom a cup?
- follow the pathway
Use a shoe box lid or a small tray as a base. Draw a line or pathway onto a piece of paper then place it into the base. Set the top spinning then see if you can get it to follow the pathway from one end to the other by tilting the base.
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- hit the target
This is a bit like bowls. First draw a circular target on the ground in chalk, or if at a table on a piece of paper. Don’t forget to stick the paper down to stop it sliding around. Your target should look like a series of rings with a bullseye in the centre. If you like you can give each ring a points value. From your starting spot, aim to spin your top towards the target and try to get it to stop in the centre of the target.
- spinning top pinball
This a great craft activity as well as a fun game. Gather together the following materials:
A old shoe box lid, a piece of paper that fits snugly inside your lid, some plastic bottle tops, stickers or paper and scissors, pens and glue.
First place your piece of paper inside the lid. Then create a pinball machine by gluing the bottle tops to the paper. Give each bottle top a score by either writing a number on them or by writing the scores on a sticker or a piece of paper and then sticking them on. You can also add your own artwork to make yours just like a real pinball machine . Once you’ve created your pinball machine you can spin your top and tilt the lid to see how many points you can score.
- skittles spinning top game
Watching this fabulous vintage Skittles Spinning Top Game has given me an idea for a future toy but you could have a go at knocking anything down with your top. Experiment and see what you can knock over. How about skittles, building blocks, toy figures or even marker pens?
- battle tops
My sons’ favourite! Spin your top towards your opponents and try to knock their top over or out of the arena. To create an arena simply draw a circle on the ground, mark out with masking tape or draw a circle on a piece of paper. Secure your piece of paper to the table or floor so avoid it being swept away in the excitement. This game is also great fun when played with whipping tops. If you’d like a gentler version play the spin challenge in your arena instead.
This fun video, Science is the Tops, explains why tops only stay upright when they’re spinning. Then shows how to make your own pencil spinning top out of card.
Here are some questions to test out:
- How quickly do you have to release for a good spin?
- Are light tops or heavier tops easier to spin?
- If you taped a penny to one side, would the top still spin?
- Are tall or short tops easier to spin?
- colour mixing exploration
Check out this colour mixing resource page for ideas on how to use spinning tops for colour mixing. You can make your own spinning tops with a round piece of card and a cocktail stick (as shown in the Science is the Tops video) or use an existing top and add your coloured paper discs to its top.
free printable game and activity sheets
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share the love
If you play any of these games or use any of the printables please share it on socials using the hashtag #CreativeWaysToPlay and tag us on Instagram as @love_heartwood and on Facebook as @loveheartwood It would be great to inspire others to try open-ended play with traditional toys.