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How to build a toy crane for kids - STEM project for kids


Hi there STEM enthusiast!!

Have you ever passed by a building under construction then looked up at the sky and seen those tall towering machines with long arms picking heaving materials and tools up and down and wondered: wow!! what are those and how do they work? Well, get ready to explore the exciting world of Cranes!

In this post, we will discuss cranes: what they are, their uses, and how they work. We will even build a model DIY crane!! Sounds cool? Then, continue reading to learn more about How to build a crane!

This project can prepare students for some Engineering challenges for kids.

Crane - What are they?

A crane is a tall machine used for lifting and moving heavy objects. It is like a big long arm that picks up very heavy objects that are too heavy for humans to pick themselves.

Parts of a crane:

  • Base: This is what the crane uses to stay in place. Some cranes have wheels which makes them easy to move from one place to another.

  • Boom: This is the arm of the crane. It includes the solid structure that constitutes the height of the crane.

  • Hook or Grabber: This is like the hand of the crane (attached at the end of the boom (arm). This is what is hooked to the object being lifted.

  • Counterweights: A crane might need some special weights to keep it in place while lifting heavy loads so it does not tip over or fall.

Types of cranes:

  • Tower cranes: These are tall cranes that are fixed in one place.

  • Mobile crane: These types of cranes have wheels or are attached to trucks making them easily movable.


Cranes are mostly found in big construction areas or factories. They help builders lift and put heavy things in the right places, like stacking giant blocks or lifting beams.

Now that we have learned what cranes are, let us try to make our simple version of a construction toy crane. Firstly, let's quickly go over the materials we'll be needing for this project:

Needed material for the DIY crane

  • Cardboard stock

  • Ruler

  • Pencil

  • Glue

  • Toothpick

  • Scissors or Knife

  • Wool string

  • 2 Paper clips

Steps required to make our DIY crane

Step 1:

Cut out a portion of about 20x15 cm from the cardboard. This will serve as the base of the crane.

Step 2:

Next, cut out identical portions of 20x4 cm of cardboard. Cut one end of both cutouts at an angle of say 50 degrees. This will be the arm of our diy crane.

Step 3:

Separate the two arms using toothpicks with a distance of 3cm between them. Secure the toothpicks to the arm with glue and cut off excess toothpick length.

Step 4:

Secure the slant ends of the arm to the base cardboard then glue on additional cardboard for extra support to the arm.

Step 5:

Now let's make the string holder:

  • First, cut out two identical cardboard portions of dimension 8x4 cm. (Add little supports to one end of each cutout for support) - This will be the holder for the string.

  • Next, attach the two cutouts to the crane base directly behind the arm with the same spacing of 3cm.

Step 6:

Next, we need an axle to control the string and hook length:

  • Cut out a circular cardboard of a diameter of 5cm.

  • On one surface, insert a toothpick at the center of the cardboard and secure it with glue.

  • On the other surface, cut another toothpick in half, insert one-half close to the edge of the circle, and secure also with glue. The long toothpick will be the axle while the half-length will be the handle for winding and releasing the string.

Step 7:

  • Make two holes in the string holders and pass the long toothpick (axle) through the holes, as shown below.

  • Cut out a long piece of string and tie one end to the toothpick (axle) then extend the other end of the string to go over the topmost toothpick separating the arm.

  • Unfold a paper clip and tie the end of the string hanging from the arm to it. This will serve as the crane hook.

Step 8:

Finally, let's make our load holder. This is where you place the load you which to move.

  • Cut out a square piece of cardboard of about 10x10cm and two pieces of wool or string of about 25cm each.

  • Cross the two strings under the cardboard (make four small cuts on the edges of the cardboard to secure the strings in place, as shown below)

  • Assemble the four ends of the strings on the opposite surface of the carboard the tie them to a paper clip. This is where the hook of the crane will hold on to for easy load lifting.

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