To start, let’s answer an often-asked question: “Are there any perpetual motion toys that work indefinitely”?
Sadly, I found there are no toys that will run indefinitely after being put into motion. So if you came to this page hoping to find a loophole to bend the laws of thermodynamics, you wouldn’t find it here. (Do notify me if you find one – I’d love to play with it!)
When I talk about perpetual motion toys, I mean those toys that seem to run their own power for long periods of time – so long that you think these science toys might run forever.
Perpetual motion toys are a fascinating way to spark your child’s curiosity about science and keep them entertained for hours on end. These toys harness the power of gravity, centrifugal force, and magnetic force to keep them in constant motion, often for extended periods of time. You may even remember playing with some of these classic toys when you were a child! I found that despite their simple design, perpetual motion toys offer a wealth of opportunities to teach scientific principles and encourage exploration.
In this article, we’ll provide you with reviews of the best perpetual motion toys on the market to help you find the perfect toy to engage your child’s mind and imagination.
Our List of The Best Perpetual Motion Toys in 2023
Sunnytech Stirling Engine
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ScienceGeek Kinetic Art Asteroid
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Perpetual Motion Toys For Kids Reviewed:
1. Top Overall Pick: Euler’s Disk
Euler’s Disk is a super cool spinning toy. Give it a spin, and the disk will begin to spin faster, and the humming noise will get louder. In scientific terms, the frequency increases as the amplitude decreases. What’s it mean to you? This disk will spin much longer than you’d anticipate – which means a dazzling light and sound show that will bring a smile to your face and joy to your child’s eyes.
It comes with different holographic foils for the magnetic base for different light displays. It includes full instructions that explain the science behind it. You could keep it on the table during family card games as it’s fascinating to watch, especially with the interchangeable holographic magnetic sheets that you can attach to it to change the patterns. Try illuminating the disk with different colored lights for an even more impressive experience.
2. Best Stirling Engine: Sunnytech Low-Temperature Stirling Engine
Did you know you can power a motor by exploiting temperature differences? You can with a stirling engine. The Sunnytech Stirling Engine is a fun, hands-on way to teach students and kids about energy. Made of rust-free parts, this perpetual motion engine is designed to run for many years.
Place the device on top of a cup of steaming coffee, and watch the engine chug into motion. To make it go even faster, put ice cubes on the stirling upper plate. The larger the temperature differential, the stronger the force produced!
3. Great For Geography Fans: Senders Floating Globe
Your child will be amazed as the Earth appears to float in mid-air with this great desk toy, the Senders Floating Globe. You can tell them it’s “magic” that makes the globe float, but you’ll know that it’s just the mystical power of magnets causing the mini-Earth to levitate. Just try and stop them from touching the globe!
I think the LED lighting adds a nice touch to the toy. You’ll need to be close enough to an outlet or extension cord in order to use this device – it’s powered by an AC adapter. Great for the desk or in a child’s room.
4. Best Value Choice: The Original Drinking Bird
As long as it has water in front of it, evaporation and condensation will keep The Original Drinking Bird bobbing up and down. It’s fun to watch and offers a good opportunity to explain scientific concepts. Keep in mind that it is breakable, and children should observe the drinking bird rather than play with it. This is just as I remember it from childhood, in the 70s! I saw this and had to get it for my children, who are very interested in all things science. It is a great demo on pressure and evaporation too.
5. Best Looking Perpetual Motion Desk Toy: Academy da Vinci Clock
This clock is designed around an escapement that comes from Leonardo da Vinci himself! The Academy da Vinci Clock is not only an example of perpetual motion, it also allows your child to employ basic engineering and maker skills as they build the model. No paint or glue is required, and the clock is a relatively easy build. It’s not necessarily an accurate timekeeper (you’ll need to experiment with different size weights to nail down the right speed), but the weight of the pendulum powers the clock, and it looks really cool.
6. Best Calming Device: Newton’s Cradle
Newton’s cradle is the first perpetual motion desk toy that I played with as a child. It’s mesmerizing watching Newton’s Law of Motion being played out through the conservation of momentum right before your eyes! These sturdy steel balls click back and forth rhythmically as the kinetic energy is transmitted through the balls and out the other side – which starts the whole process over again.
I find the sound quite soothing – it’s easy to spend a great deal of time just watching the cradle “do its thing.”
7. Perfect Gift For Aspiring Astronauts: Science Geek Kinetic Art Asteroid
Your future astronomer will LOVE the ScienceGeek Kinetic Art Asteroid electronic perpetual motion toy. This battery-powered kinetic mobile art toy sways back and forth as the spheres move around the middle “planet”. You need to “start” it yourself by initiating the first swing – the 9-volt battery and magnetic forces will take over from there.
It’s a great device to teach some physics and magnetism lessons. Not only functional, but this toy is also easy on the eyes. Each unit is unique, so you won’t necessarily get the same exact colors as someone else – but that just adds to the charm, right? This perpetual motion art will look great on both a toy box, or an office desk.
8. Best Spinning Top: CHEETOP Stainless Steel Top
Have you seen the movie Inception? If you haven’t, watch it – you’ll have a new appreciation for the often-overlooked perpetual motion machine known as the top. Spin one of these CHEETOP tops on a smooth glass or marble surface, and with some skill, your top will stay moving for 4-6 minutes. Don’t expect that amount of time without practice (think snap, not spin with your fingers) – but it does give you something to shoot for.
This is a really beautiful toy. Just watch out if it spins forever – you might still be in a dream….
The Original TEDCO Gyroscope is one of the classic perpetual motion toys that has been fascinating children for generations. Gyroscope technology has many applications, including the navigation systems used in spacecraft. In its retro-cool packaging, the kit includes the gyroscope, string, and pedestal, as well as instructions for fun tricks.
Kids (and adults) will love playing with the GeoFlux Mesmerizing 3-D Kinetic Sculpture. Simply start it spinning and watch it as you easily move it up and down, arm to arm, and even pass it to a friend. A cool, active toy that demonstrates kinetic energy. Kids and adults will love it!
The Kinetic Art Perpetual Motion Machine uses electromagnetic force to stay in motion. I like the versatility that the steel ball can drop down the shute immediately or roll around before it drops, and shoots back into the bowl, but be careful adding a couple of steel balls, and it may fly out of the toy completely. This upgraded version has an invisible induction switch; the toy is noise-free. Use this toy to keep kids entertained and teach them various scientific principles.
What To Look For When Buying Perpetual Motion Toys
One of the great things about most of these toys is their simplicity – they generally do one thing (run for a LONG time) and do it well. There are some differences between perpetual motion machines and toys. Here are some characteristics to keep in mind when shopping.
These toys run the entire gamut of sizes. There are some that fit in your pocket; others take up a good chunk of real estate on your desk. Make sure you pick a toy that fits the space you have available – not just to play but to store the device.
The recommended age of the toy is important. As stated above – some perpetual motion devices are quite small and would be completely inappropriate for anyone of preschool age. No need to introduce a choking hazard! Others are a bit more complicated and geared toward teens and adults.
There are devices designed to be used and enjoyed by younger kids – once again, make sure the toy you buy fits your situation.
Check if the device runs on its own power, or will it need to be plugged in or powered by batteries. If it’s AC-powered, you’ll need to have access to an outlet close by. If it’s a battery-powered device, be sure to note the type and how many batteries the toy will need. You remember the disappointment when you got a gift without batteries included?
Don’t be that guy.
Perpetual motion toys are fun to observe and play with and can be great learning tools. Do you have a favorite perpetual motion toy? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, pj_vanf.