The Best Perpetual Motion Toys (Reviews)
If you want your child to be proficient at science and mathematics when they grow up, you need to get them started early with toys which teach them about Newtonian physics. Thus, you may be searching for “perpetual motion toys” in an attempt to find the right toy to get your child on the right track.
But, there’s no such thing as perpetual motion. There are, however, several momentum-based toys which offer many hours of movement before they become still.
In this article, we’ll help you identify which of these “perpetual motion” toys are the best to help your child learn about the laws of the universe.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to pick a great toy to help your child understand Newtonian physics, and you might even be ready to teach them a little lesson.
- Perpetual Motion Toy Reviews
- Our #1 Choice – PowerTRC Newtons Cradle Balance Balls
- Our #2 Choice – The Famous Drinking Bird
- Our #3 Choice – Sunnytech Steel Balance Physics Toy
- Our #4 Choice – Sunnytech Dolphins Kinetic Art Balancing Decompression Toy
- Our #5 Choice – Sunnytech Steel Balance Plane Physics Toy
- Our #6 Choice – Westminster Space Shuttle Electronic Perpetual Motion
- What should I look for in a perpetual motion toy?
- How do I teach my child about physics using a perpetual motion toy?
- Are perpetual motion toys good for anything other than learning?
- Which age group benefits the most from perpetual motion toys?
Perpetual Motion Toy Reviews
Our #1 Choice – PowerTRC Newtons Cradle Balance Balls
The Newton’s Cradle is one of the most easily recognizable and mysterious of the perpetual motion toys, and it’s a great way to get your child fascinated with the laws of the universe at a very early age.
- Great for an introduction to physics
- Timeless design
- Makes a pleasant clacking noise
- Minimal play value for younger children
With the Newton’s Cradle, your child will understand that momentum can be transferred between objects and that only a small amount of energy is lost. In other words, they’ll learn the timeless maxim that every force has an equal and opposite force.
Watching the cradle clack back and forth can be deeply calming. With this toy, your child will get the calmness as a given, but if you want them to learn more from the toy you’ll need to invest some effort.
The cradle itself doesn’t include any instructions regarding why the balls exhibit the behavior that they do. Likewise, there’s no indication why the balls can clack for a period before stopping. You’ll need to fill in the blanks to help your child learn.
Our #2 Choice – The Famous Drinking Bird
The Drinking Bird’s casual bobbing is one of the iconic perpetual motion toys, and it’s also one of the best-suited for younger children to start getting engaged with physics.
- Pleasant bobbing motion
- Cheerful appearance
- Low-pressure lesson potential
- Not durable
The Drinking Bird is more sophisticated than it may appear. Within the bird’s body, there is a glass container which has a bulb. Within the bulb is green-colored water. As the bird dips, water flows into the bird’s head, then splashes backward toward the bird’s bottom.
As the water accumulates in the bulb at the bottom of the bird, the bird raises itself up and ceases to dip. Thus, the bird can seesaw back and forth with the appearance of perpetual motion as a result of the momentum-conserving liquid within.
This means that the Drinking Bird is an easy way to show children how basic mechanics like momentum work in reality. But, the bird itself is fragile. Any kind of rough play will probably cause the bird to break apart.
As an added risk, the bulb which contains the water may be prone to cracking or smashing, both of which would spell the end for the toy.
Our #3 Choice – Sunnytech Steel Balance Physics Toy
The spinning fulcrum Sunnytech Steel Balance Physics Toy is an excellent way to teach your child multiple physics concepts ranging from weight distribution to momentum.
- Weights spin for up to two minutes
- Teaches multiple concepts
- Attractive aesthetics
- May be difficult to set up for younger children
The premise behind this toy is more complicated than it might seem. A weightlifter balances atop a pillar, holding a long shaft with two barbells at the end.
The barbells are the same weight, and, provided that the weightlifter is balanced properly atop the pillar, can spin in highly tilted orbits around the central pillar without causing the weightlifter to lose his position.
This means that the Sunnytech balance toy can fascinate children who already know a thing or two about momentum because it clearly displays the two counterweights as manifestations of equal and opposite forces.
Especially for children who already have had exposure to perpetual motion toys, the balancing weightlifter can provide a new perspective that helps them to understand the underlying physical phenomena.
Of course, for the youngest children, the entire setup is probably difficult to comprehend. Children with poorly developed motor skills will have problems perching the weightlifter atop his pillar, so they probably won’t be able to use this toy without your help.
Our #4 Choice – Sunnytech Dolphins Kinetic Art Balancing Decompression Toy
For children who love marine biology, this Sunnytech Dolphin perpetual motion toy is a great way to start learning about the fundamental forces in the universe which give way to their favorite forms of life.
- Beautiful blue glass
- Solid stand
- Dolphins appear to bop a ball at the top of the toy upon each revolution
- Dolphins are easy to chip or crack
The premise behind this perpetual motion toy is the same as many of the others: the two dolphins are counterweights for each other, and they orbit around a central fixed bar.
With this toy, however, you may find that the experience is more dynamic for your child. Because the dolphins must fight against gravity with each “jump” over the central bar, the toy can only sustain a few revolutions before it runs out of momentum.
But, there’s a big upside: the rate of motion of the dolphins isn’t uniform. The dolphins appear to leap over the bar after moving slowly beneath the surface, which many children will find to be exceptionally fascinating.
Our #5 Choice – Sunnytech Steel Balance Plane Physics Toy
The Sunnytech Plane Physics toy is a great introduction to momentum-based physics for children who appreciate aviation.
- Soaring and diving biplane action
- Stainless steel construction
- No need to struggle with initial balancing
- Poor stand balance
- Mediocre counterweight
Aspiring young pilots need to have a mastery of basic physics before they can take the control stick, and that’s why this plane physics toy can be a great way to introduce your child to momentum.
While the spherical counterweight on the toy leaves a lot to be desired in terms of its aesthetic, the plane’s diving, climbing, and bobbing maneuvers are deeply entertaining for children and adults alike.
The plane’s stand is not very heavy, however. This means that a particularly vigorous push to start the plane in motion may end up causing the entire set to crash and burn.
On the bright side, balancing the screw on the fulcrum to start the toy in motion is very easy thanks to a little bit of threading. So, you probably won’t need to help your child set this toy up after the first time.
Our #6 Choice – Westminster Space Shuttle Electronic Perpetual Motion
Space is the ultimate playground for children who love physics. That’s why this Westminster Space Shuttle toy helps your child to learn about momentum in the context of one of the most famous space-faring vessels we’ve produced to date.
- Space shuttle theme
- Gyroscopic motion
- Perfectly balanced
- Requires batteries
- May be difficult to use to teach basic momentum concepts
The space shuttle floats at the center of the toy, surrounded by a moving pair of counterweights which rotate the shuttle in several directions with each revolution of the weights. This toy looks great when it is in action—and the fact that it has a space theme is one of its largest appeals.
Unlike most perpetual motion toys, this toy requires batteries. Without the batteries, the gyroscopic motion of the counterweights peters out very quickly on account of the inefficient arcing that they need to do.
So, this toy might be a useful way to teach your child about the finer points of momentum and Newtonian physics, though the simpler concepts are probably better served with another toy.
What should I look for in a perpetual motion toy?
You should look for a few basic characteristics in perpetual motion toys, including:
- Effective demonstration of key physics concepts
- High build quality
- Aesthetic appeal
Most importantly, the perpetual motion toy needs to teach your child about Newtonian physics. This means that it should allow your child to understand that each force has an equal and opposite force.
Likewise, perpetual motion toys need to show your child that there is in fact no such thing as perpetual motion. Observing the toy for a long period of time will help your child to see it slowly lose energy and eventually become still.
The main enabler of these kinds of lessons is the toy’s build quality. A toy with poor build quality may break or be too inefficient in the way that it works to demonstrate that momentum is conserved.
Furthermore, high build quality toys tend to lend themselves to other physics lessons, too. Balancing a high-quality perpetual motion toy will help your child to understand distributions of weight relative to gravity and also to understand that this is a distinct concept from momentum alone.
Finally, you should look for an aesthetically pleasing perpetual motion toy. Your child will need to observe the toy for long periods of time to derive the physics lessons within.
The chance of your child investing the required amount of effort and attention is much higher if the toy is made with subject matter that they already appreciate.
How do I teach my child about physics using a perpetual motion toy?
There are a few key lessons that you can use the perpetual motion desk to teach your child when it comes to physics:
The exact lessons will vary from toy to toy, but nearly all perpetual motion toys will prepare you to teach your child a lesson regarding momentum and friction.
To teach this lesson, show your child that momentum from your arm transfers into the perpetual motion toy when you give it a gentle push. Then, to follow up with a lesson about friction, have your child observe how the toy’s rotation slows over time.
Explain that friction is the cause for this slowing, and that friction occurs when one thing rubs against another thing. Describe that the perpetual motion toy is rubbing against the air, which causes it to slow down over time.
Are perpetual motion toys good for anything other than learning?
Most perpetual motion toys are effective learning tools, but they don’t have many other uses. The precise nature of perpetual motion toys means that they often have little play value for children who enjoy active play or imaginative play.
So, you should understand that perpetual motion toys are not necessarily good choices for children who are eager to have a deeply interactive new toy. Instead, you should opt to integrate perpetual motion toys into your child’s learning-by-play roster of toys.
Which age group benefits the most from perpetual motion toys?
While very young children can enjoy the moving display that perpetual motion toys offer, your child will get the biggest benefit from perpetual motion toys when they are between the ages of 7 and 10.
At this critical age, children can appreciate the finer points of physics without getting too bogged down by the fact that the toy isn’t very interactive. Likewise, from the age of 7 onward, children have the basic language and comprehension capabilities that they need to learn with your aid.
There’s no real age minimum or maximum when it comes to perpetual motion toys, however. So long as your child has curiosity and your guidance, they can learn something new from watching their toy spin in space.
You should be sure to cater your physics lesson to the comprehension ability of your child no matter how old they are when they get their first perpetual motion machine.
Especially for children who show an early affinity for the sciences, you will probably find that getting them started on perpetual motion machines at a young age inspires them to learn more about the universe.