DIY: Pinwheels! (w/free template printable)

I was short on time with my last group of students before winter break, and came up with this pinwheel project idea.  They came out so cute, I thought I would share it here with the idea that these pinwheels are a great craft idea if you're on break with the kids, or to make at children's parties, or even to make ahead of time and use as party favors!

Here's what you'll need (per pinwheel):

  • 6"x6" paper, heavier weight (read options below)
  • Pinwheel template
  • unsharpened pencil with eraser intact (those fancy decorative pencils that neither draw nor erase well are perfect for this!!!)
  • straight pin
  • needle-nose pliers
  • tiny bead (optional)

I made a free printable template of the pinwheel layout here.  It prints onto regular 8.5"x11" paper, but the pinwheel paper square is actually only about 6"x6".  I recommend using a slightly heavier paper, like construction paper or scrapbooking paper.  In the example above, I used watercolor paper, painted on both sides.  In a pinch, you could actually use the printed out template to have kids draw onto and just use the printer paper for the pinwheel, but they're not as sturdy.

The thing to remember about pinwheels is that both sides of the paper are seen.  So if you use colored paper and have kids draw designs, make sure they draw on both sides.  At school, we used experimental watercolor techniques over the course of two days (one for each side of the paper) in order to create our pinwheels.  But I was thinking that if you're going to make a bunch for party favors, two-sided scrapbooking paper is absolutely perfect for this.  Especially if you use 12"x12" paper, you can get four pinwheels from one sheet!

So, step one is to decorate your paper (optional, but if you choose to, do it now instead of after it's all curled up!).

Then, cut your square template out, and place the template over your 6"x6" paper and cut along the diagonal lines toward the center, through both sheets.  This is how I make sure I cut far enough into the middle, but also so I dont go too far in.  That's all you really need the template for.  You can recycle it now.

Next, you'll gently bend every other corner towards the middle of the pinwheel square.  Use a straight pin to secure the points down and push the pin through to the back side of the pinwheel.  If the head of your pin is tiny, use a small bead (optional) to make the pin head larger and to keep the paper from pulling through.

The straight pin will now go through the pencil eraser (I like to push it through perpendicularly close to the metal base) until the pointy end sticks out through the other side.  Then use the needle-nose pliers to bend the end of the pin (making an "L" shape) to keep it from pulling back out.

Okay, that might sound more confusing than it really is.  Just use the straight pin to stick through the whole thing and through a pencil eraser.  Bend the pin so it doesn't come out of the eraser.

Here, I even made a complicated diagram for what's actually a really simple task.  I'm afraid my teacher tendency to over-explain everything fifty different ways in order to reach everyone is getting the better of me here...

Let me know if you have any questions.

My sample pinwheels came out so well that I made a gigantic pinwheel out of posterboard and a wooden dowel, with thick wire as my "pin."  I painted both sides of the posterboard using acrylic paint first.

Whaddaya think?

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