Pneumatic Toys: How to Build Toys Out of Wood with Your Children

stans book2>>> A book review by Sylvia Welke.

Stan Taylor, a long-time science teacher, STAO member, and contributor, has written a great little manual for building cool toys that demonstrate the principle of the multiplication of force. Not only can this instructive manual assist teachers with the grade 8 science curriculum through its hands-on activities but it can also be useful for secondary physics units on force. You can tell that Stan had a great time creating these toys with his grandchildren (his interspersed anecdotes attest to this) and we are lucky that he decided to share his building skills and physics knowledge. It is a great resource for anyone with an interest in building fun toys.

The book details nine different experimental setups including a pneumatically-controlled miniature Canadarm, the construction of a front-end loader, and a McDigger. What is great is that these experiments in pneumatics result in toys to be enjoyed for a long time after they are built.

Each pneumatic toy is described in detail and comes with a well-labelled diagram and step-by-step photos. In order to construct these toys, some basic materials are needed, such as pieces of wood of different sizes and shapes, some syringes, tubing for the syringes, and wooden wheels. With each toy, all required materials are listed and step-by-step instructions help the novice through the building of each toy, which is best tried at home first, if possible.

A lab bench or some other work space is also useful. Teachers should dedicate several periods to construct each toy, and some assembly beforehand might facilitate classroom work. Teachers can approach the construction of any one of the pneumatic toys as a teacher-guided activity, a student-led inquiry or some mix of the latter.

Stan has included a short section on useful websites as well as suggestions for evaluation and rubrics (for toy design and construction) for teachers. In all, it is a useful resource for teachers, parents, and budding engineers.

To order this book, go to

“I’ve designed pneumatic toys elementary and secondary students can build using wood. I have drawings and pictures of each toy with instructions on how to build them. Children have the opportunity to learn the joy of working with wood to the construction of an end product. Children and adults alike have learned through my workshops how to make many of the toys in this book. The sparkle in the eye of a child and the broad smile of an educator when they have made the toy and when they see it working is most gratifying. I am not a carpenter. My ‘toys’ are available for everyone to build and with care, should last a lifetime. Let the fun begin!” – Stanley R. Taylor

Sylvia Welke is a member of the STAO promotions committee.