Week 5: Toys


We will present our mechanism projects and then start our exploration on wheeled toy design.

“Lego produced 381 million tires in 2011, making them the world’s largest tire manufacturer by number of units produced.” – Wikipedia


The oldest known wheelset is part of a ceramic wheeled toy.  It comes from a culture that was not known to use wheels for any other purpose.  Toys, arguably, are the first “real” use of the wheel.

Wheeled bull toy – 3900 BC – Cucuteni-Tripolye culture of western Ukraine


Playsam Streamliner Classic Organic


Toys/Toy Design is a large category, we are going to focus on specific elements and specific toy types: tops, wheeled carts, and pull toys.


Design Considerations

Toys have unique design considerations.

Safety – chocking hazard, toxic, batteries, magnets

Strings, cords, and necklaces can strangle infants. Infant toys that include cords can present a strangulation hazard if the cord is put around an infant’s neck. The American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) voluntary standard for pull toys states that in “pull toys intended for children under 36 months, cords and elastics greater than 12 inches long shall not be provided with beads or other attachments that could tangle to form a loop”. Parents should remove beads, knobs, or other attachments from their child’s pull toy cord if the cord is over 12 inches long. via

Pull Toys: Cords, straps, and elastics greater than 12 in. (300 mm) long for pull toys intended for children under 36 months of age shall not be provided with beads or other attachments that could tangle to form a loop. via


Toys get played with, hard.  They are thrown, dropped, hammered.  Toys must be very robust.  Toys also break, but when they break, they must be safe.

Material choice is important.  No acrylic or other materials that can easily shatter.  No toxic materials or finishes (lead paint, etc).

Avoid certain species of wood: walnut and purple heart due to allergies.



An object can be recognized as a toy simply by its coloring.  Bright primary colors.  Shiny finishes.



Toys can not be too heavy, a child must be able to lift and play with it.  Toys will be thrown, it’s a fact.  The heavier the toy, the more of a danger it poses when tossed at an unsuspecting little brother or sister.


Age Ranges

The intended age for a toy determines a lot.  The size, sophistication.  An older child might find a simpler toy a “baby’s toy”.


Fun Factor

large wheel toy

This is secret sauce of good toy design and the hardest to define.  What engages a child (or an adult) to play with a toy.  Why are some toys timeless and others fads?  What was your favorite toy growing up?  Why?



Sound is often overlooked when designing a toy.  A simple squeak or click can be very satisfying.  Think baseball card in the spokes.


Toy Types


Well balanced spinning top.  Generally a low center of gravity.  Incredibly satisfying.

Hand Spinning Top

Carousel Humming Top

Glow Spinning Top

Tippy Top

Prometheus Lambda Top


Wheeled Toys

Simple wheeled toys.  Can have propulsion or be push powered.

Wood Toy


He-Man Attak Trak


Pull Toy

Simple 2, 3, or 4 (or more) wheeled objects, pulled by a string.

Nutty Squirrel Pull Toy


Kinetics – Getting Movements for Free

Springy tails, floppy ears, wiggling bodies.

Pull Along Wooden Friend




Turtle Pull Toy




“Flapping” Wheels



Everything all in one



Art Toys

Kidrobot Art Toys – Dunny

Andy Warhol


Nostalgia, Girl/Boy Toys, Educational, Sustainable



Pull Toy assignment.



Related Reading/Viewing

Build a Classic Wobble Duckie Pull Toy

Build a Fast Wood Toy Car

Brumm Wooden Cars

Consumer Product Safety Commission: Toys

Push Along/Pull Along Toy Safety

Old Fashioned Toys From Christmas Past

W.A.T.C.H. Toy Safety

Thorsten Van Elten Small Dumper Wood Toy Dump Truck


Spliner Toy Car