moving parts

Antique Jumping Jack Toy

This week the Southern Vermont Arts Center asked me to teach a Friday morning class for young children. The request was that the lesson be inspired by Alexander Calder. It is, fortunately, easy to be inspired by Calder. His work immediately conjures up colorful shapes, whimsy, animated forms, and circus-like figures. Putting this together, I decided to design an Antique Jumping Jack Toy project for the students to create.

An Antique Jumping Jack Toy, traditionally, is a figure whose arms dangle down when at rest.

When his string is pulled, Jack’s limbs jump up, as if he is dancing

To make a Jumping Jack one needs:

  • pencil to draw out the basic shape. or the confidence to just start cutting
  • cover weight paper or light cardboard
  • 4 or more paper fasteners (depending on whether or not you want to hinge the elbow and knee joints)
  • a one hole paper punch
  • scissors
  • needle
  • heavy thread

Start by planning out the pieces. Cut out torso (with head) arms and legs. Punch holes at attachment points

(Please note the picture above is NOT intended to be a pattern! If you really want to be provided with a pattern, leave me a note in the comment box, and I will email you a pattern that I created by a shameless reappropriation some images I found on the internet….)

Next, attach limbs to torso with paper fasteners. The paper fasteners should be loose, to allow the limbs to swing.

Finally, sew thread at the top of the limbs, right above the paper fasteners as shown by the green line in the picture above. Be sure to really be right above the paper fastener attachments, or toy will not be a good jumper. Also, attach a string to top and bottom strings as shown, and let the end of this string dangle loosely below Jack’s feet.

Now pull the string and watch him go. Oh, you might want to put a string through the head to hold him by.

Here you can see that I hinged the knees with paper fasteners.

Once you have the basics of this down, be playful with the pieces.  This particular guy was made from the scraps of paper that were left over from other projects.

Addendum   Gerelateerde links: – If you want to see the Jumping Jacks created in my classes at SVAC, go to this link: and Wat Meer Trekpoppen: More Jumping Jacks.

Also, for a post (written in Dutch) which list links to a variety of Jumping Jacks articles, visit


12 thoughts on “Antique Jumping Jack Toy

  1. this looks totally awesome!! It’s always fun to give you little assignments to see what you come up with. It’s very comforting to know that I can count on you to be totally professional and prepared for each class you teach. It makes my job so much easier.


  2. I predict that this will be the rage of the Tucson Homeschool
    Community. What a great project. So when are you coming to sunny AZ to teach some workshops?



  3. I am an elementary school special educator. I want to help the children build background knowledge about a story they are reading about a pioneer family in North Dakota during 1894. The children could not fathom what a jumping jack toy was, and I would like to have them make them as a project. Your fancy paper jack is fabulous. Thank you!


  4. Thank you so much, your tip on how to position the holes to make the jumping jack jump has just saved my lesson for this week! Thanks!


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