Carpenters' Hall

Colonial Toy Time

Skill Development

Large motor skills, creativity through art


The students will be able to construct a toy from the 1700s and play with it. Classroom helpers will be needed to complete this lesson with students from pre-school to kindergarten.

Materials (per student)

  • One paper cup (medium sized)
  • one paper clip
  • 20-inch string, yarn, or rope
  • tin foil (10x12in)
  • one paper towel holder
  • tape
  • color writing utensils and other decoratng options

Pre-Procedure (for teacher to complete before lesson)

  1. Cut four, one inch evenly spaced slots into the top of the paper towel holder. Fold back the sides.
  2. Punch a hole at the bottom of the paper towel holder, big enough for the piece of string o fit through.
  3. Tie the string to the paper clip.


Begin the lesson by talking about the toys that children play with today. Make sure the students brainstorm toys that involve computer technology. Ask them what they think kids played with when there were no computers or televisions. Initiate responses such as board games, or balls. Make a "T" chart so that everyone can see it clearly. On one side write "Toys Today," and on the other write "Toys of the Past," and place the appropriate toys under each category as the students brainstorm. This will help the students visualize their ideas. Keeping the graphic organizer in clear view to all students, explain to them that they will make their own toys. They would use this toy if they lived "back then."


  1. Tape the top of the paper towel holder to the cup by bending the pre-cut sides around the bottom of the cup.
  2. Thread the string through the hole at the bottom of the paper towel holder and tape the end of the string (not the end with the paper clip) down onto the paper towel holder.
  3. Take the piece of tin foil and wrap it around the paper clip, forming a ball (the ball does not have to be perfectly round. It must, however, completely cover the paper clip).
  4. Decorate the cup and the paper towel holder.
  5. Allow the children to figure out how to use the toy. If they are having difficulty, model for the students the usage of the toy, so they can imitate.
  6. See if the students can count how many times they can catch the ball in a row.


End the lesson by praising them on their hard work. Allow them to brainstorm how playing with this toy is different from playing with their toys today. Tell them to take the toy home and show their family how children from the past used to play.

Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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