Balancing Toys

Many kinds of traditional and contemporary toys involve balance in some way. There are also some table games that entail balance. This suggests that there is something interesting about these devices and games that continue to attract our attention. Taking advantage of this appeal, you can engage children in making some simple devices they can play with and explore.

These Balancing Toys activities provide a great context for them to focus on what is involved in balancing objects and to develop a more detailed understanding of this basic phenomenon. Balance is a very important topic to study because it is found in many different situations. This may not be readily apparent, but, after some consideration, you can see that thinking about how things balance is a worthwhile endeavor. Our bodies have to stay in balance as we walk or sit; otherwise, we would fall over. While playing sports, keeping yourself balanced is a constant challenge. Buildings are designed so that their materials balance each other. The keel on a boat is there to keep the vessel from tipping over. Engineers carefully calculate airplane designs to ensure that the wings and engines will keep the body of the plane horizontal as it flies. The engaging activities suggested in this Balancing Toys guide use simple materials to help children try out their ideas about balancing. These are meant to be only an introductory set of experiences that allow children to discover some of the important factors involved in many kinds of balancing situations. When children complete the explorations in sequence and as suggested, they will have a foundation for understanding basic scientific concepts such as equilibrium and simple machines (for example, the lever).