Best wind-up toy

Theme Toys

The first wind-up toy many kids remember is the classic Jack-in-the-box that plays the tune “Pop Goes the Weasel” as the handle is cranked until Jack pops out of the box.

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Which wind-up toys are best?

For many years, toys that moved on their own were made of metal and powered by winding up internal springs with a key. The spring would then unwind, powering the toy to move, run and jump. Then wind-up toys began to be made of plastic and so were lighter in weight and capable of even more motion. 

Movements of wind-up toys are controlled by a system of wires and springs. Wind-up toys can be quite real-looking, but most are fanciful. If you’re looking for a classic metal wind-up toy, take a look at the H-Partner Classic Wind-Up Rotating Toy Airplane Carousel.

What to know before you buy a wind-up toy

Power source

  • Springs: The mechanisms that convert the energy stored up in the springs are hidden inside the toy. When a key or crank is turned, it coils a metal spring tighter and tighter, storing up energy. As the spring unwinds, the stored up energy activates small mechanisms, turns gears, moves levers and provides power. 
  • Rubber and elastic bands: Rubber bands are another source of power for wind-up toys. They’re popular among flying toys because they need no gears and so are lighter in weight. As the pilot turns the propeller, the rubber band twists tighter and tighter. When the propeller is released, the stored energy turns the propeller and the plane flies for long distances.  

What to look for in a quality wind-up toy

Vintage designs

Many of the oldest windup toys were modeled on rides from the fairs and circuses that once traveled from town to town across the USA. Users wind up a rotating metal carousel toy and watch as it turns round and round, spinning airplanes in a circle. You might prefer a wind-up merry-go-round with colorful horses and riders that go up and down. 

Walking toys

  • Robots: Robots are popular wind-up toys with big metal keys sticking out of their backs. They walk stiffly, like Frankenstein. Some have arms that swing along and heads that bounce on a spring.
  • Plastic toys: You can find many choices of wind-up toy animals that walk, crawl and hop and waddle like penguins. 
  • Fabric toys: Felt and fur wind-up toys are usually friendly animals. Plush fabric mice with twirling tails will startle the unexpecting as they scurry across the floor. You can even race them.

Fantastic movers

Some wind-up toys are capable of more than walking and crawling. Keep an eye out for spindly, long-legged toys that can do some very fancy climbing, including walking upside-down. The classic Slinky toy comes in a wind-up version that wiggles its way across floors and tabletops. 

Swimming toys

There are lots of choices of wind-up toys for the bathtub. Kids from toddlers to tweens like to wind up little floating toys and watch as they paddle around the tub with feet and fins. You can choose from colorful cartoon penguins, turtles, ducks and even scuba divers with masks, fins and air tanks. A few outdoor toys include nets for capturing the swimming toys.

Flying toys

The classic wind-up flying toy is made of thin and very light balsa wood. It winds with a finger instead of a key and uses a rubber band instead of a steel spring. Pilots wind the elastic until it’s tightly coiled and let their plane soar into the sky. 

Gag gifts

All the old classics are here and some new ones, too. The false teeth on some wind-up toys don’t only chatter, they walk, too. A very interesting gag gift folds up to fit inside a greeting card. When the card is opened, the bird, bat or butterfly flaps away, startling the recipient.

How much you can expect to spend on a wind-up toy

You can find all types of wind-up toys from $10-$20. Elaborate wind-up toys and collectibles run anywhere from $20-$100.

Wind-up toy FAQ

How long do wind-up toys last?

A. Spring-powered wind-up toys can last for a long time if you don’t overwind them; too much tension and the mechanism will break. Rubber band-powered toys don’t last as long as spring-powered toys.

What’s the best way to take care of wind-up toys that go in the water?

A. You can keep them free of mold if you air dry them before putting them away.

What are the best wind-up toys to buy?

Top wind-up toy 

H-Partner Classic Wind-Up Rotating Toy Airplane Carousel

H-Partner Classic Wind-Up Rotating Toy Airplane Carousel

What you need to know: This handmade toy is modeled after the rides at the fair.

What you’ll love: Three colorful biplanes hang from arms on top of a tall metal tower. The steel spring mechanism is housed in the colorful base that looks like a rock garden with flowers. Wind up this toy and watch the planes fly circles around the tower.

What you should consider: This metal toy has some sharp edges.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top wind-up toys for the money

Fun Little Toys 12-Piece Wind-Up Dinosaur Set

Fun Little Toys 12-Piece Wind-Up Dinosaur Set

What you need to know: These dinosaurs twist their heads back and forth, flap their wings, walk, hop, flip, roll, turn somersaults and swim, too.

What you’ll love: This set of non-toxic plastic dinosaurs comes with a triceratops, stegosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, pterosaur and eight more fearsome creatures. All have realistic texture, colors and details.

What you should consider: These are small toys and are not recommended for kids who will put them in their mouths.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Boley Wind-Up Sea Animals, 10-Pack

Boley Wind-Up Sea Animals, 10-Pack

What you need to know: Designed for play in the pool, these colorful sea creatures are fun in the tub, too.

What you’ll love: Black orcas, blue sharks and manta rays, green turtles and crocs and five more of these animals not only float, but swim under their own power, too. Wind them up and they kick, paddle and splash playfully.

What you should consider: These toys meet all child safety standards.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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