There are plenty of toys for both kids and adults that use physics in fun and interesting ways. You’ve got the classics like marble runs and perpetual motion tricks, but also some more unique ones like mini steam engines and roller coasters.
These types of toys are not only fun to have around, but can also help instill an interest in physics in younger minds. So, without further ado, let’s look at our nine favorite physics-based toys.
Build-it-Yourself Marble Run: ROKR Marble Run
Marble runs, at the end of the day, are just simple demonstrations of gravity and motion. Regardless, it’s still a fun thing to have around for both kids and adults.
ROKR’s kit is made out of wood, and you have to assemble it yourself. The marbles will go through flip-flops, stairlifts, funnels, and twisting paths. The gear aesthetic ROKR used looks great and makes the completed kit a welcome addition to any office.
ROKR Wooden Marble Run 3D Wooden Puzzles Model Building Kits for Adults - DIY Educational Project Brain Teaser, Crafts Hobbies Gifts for Adults & Kids (Pivot)
A solid wooden marble run with a great aesthetic.
Glowingly Elaborate: National Geographic Glowing Marble Run
This marble run is definitely more aimed at kids or the kids at heart. It’s big, the parts are interchangeable, and it even glows in the dark. Over 60 pieces are included in the “small” kit, but you can also buy a “medium” kit that has 120 pieces if you want something more elaborate. There is also an expansion set that comes with more action pieces (stuff like loops, rails, and wheels).
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Glowing Marble Run – 80 Piece Construction Set with 15 Glow in the Dark Glass Marbles & Storage Bag, STEM Gifts for Boys and Girls, Building Project Toy (Amazon Exclusive)
Customize your own elaborate marble run.
Heat-Powered Office Decor: Sunnytech Stirling Steam Motor
This is perfect for the office. The real Stirling Motor is a heat-based engine that was invented in the early 1800s. Much like the real-world counterpart, when this micro version comes in contact with heat (for example, from a hot plate or steaming cup of coffee) its wheel will start spinning. Having a desk-toy version of this engine is a great way to show off an interest in mechanical engineering, and it just looks cool.
You have a choice between a few different models, too. Pictured above is the LT001 but you can also choose either the DWCL-01 and Z1 models, which both work the same as the LT001 but just look different.
Sunnytech Low Temperature Stirling Engine Motor Steam Heat Education Model Toy Kit (LT001)
A great looking mini Stirling Motor for your office.
Minimalist Motion: Fortune Products Inc. The Swinging Sticks
Perpetual motion toys can liven up a room with movements that are fascinating to watch. The Swinging Sticks is a great example of this, it looks cool in motion, has a sleek minimalist design, and is made out of solid aluminum. All it takes is four AA batteries and you have a great piece of decor for your room.
The Swinging Sticks Kinetic Energy Sculpture - Desktop Toy Replica Version
A great-looking demonstration of perpetual motion.
A Tiny Unicyclist: Sunnytech Unicycle Weightlifter
This is a pretty common desk toy, but that is for good reason. The Unicycle Weightlifter moves in a unique way that makes it interesting to watch. This one from Sunnytech is entirely made out of metal, which helps ensure it won’t be easily knocked over.
You do have a few models to choose from again, with the one pictured above being WJ143 and the other two being the WJ020, which is also a Unicycle Weightlifter but with a slightly different design, and the WJ066, which replaces the unicyclist with a small plane.
Sunnytech Unicycle Weightlifter Stainless Steel Physics Balancing Tumbler Toy Kinetic Art Balance Toy Decompressive Science Psychology Home Offic Decor Desk Toy WJ143
A popular desk toy but for good reason, this tiny unicyclist looks and works great.
Physics-Based Fidgeting: samisoler Kinetic Desk Toy
Not only does this toy look cool, but it can also serve a very practical purpose as a fidget toy . Many like to purchase fidget toys to mess around with when they’re feeling stressed or bored, and like other fidget toys, the smooth motion of this toy can help relax you. Just put it down on any flat surface, spin it, and watch as the helix groove spins around the curves of the toy. (samisoler has a video of the toy in action on the product page, so you can see it for yourself before buying.) It also has the bonus of being made out of solid aluminum, so it has a nice weight in the hand.
This kinetic desk toy comes in silver and turquoise.
samisoler Kinetic Desk Toy for Adults, Office Stress Relief with Full Body Optical Illusion Metal for Kids Children Teens
For the fidgeters, this toy looks great and gives you something new to mess around with.
Build It Large: LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster
Roller coasters are certainly one of the coolest ways we use physics today, and now you can capture that thrill in a LEGO set. The finished build isn’t small, as it measures at over 20 inches high and 34 inches wide, but it does make great use of that space. You’ll notice how tightly packed the coaster tracks are, which only makes it more interesting to watch the carts zip through.
You use a simple hand crank to get the coaster cars up the incline, but after that, gravity and momentum take over. The set dressing of the build is also great, with 11 included mini-figs and little shops that can be built around the coaster.
This set comes with 4,124 pieces.
LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster 10261 Building Kit (4124 Pieces)
An intricate and working LEGO roller coaster.
Challenge of Creation: ThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge
Much like LEGO’s set, ThinkFun’s Roller Coaster Challenge kit encapsulates the fun and real-life physics of roller coasters, but in a small enough package to fit onto a table. There is a wide variety of pieces included with this kit, including slopes, loops, and twists, which allow for a good amount of creative freedom when it comes to designing coasters.
ThinkFun wanted to encourage smart and strategic thinking in young minds with this kit, so there are 40 challenge cards included with the kit to do just that. The cards outline where certain pieces need to be placed, and it’s the builder’s job to fill in the blanks.
ThinkFun Roller Coaster Challenge STEM Toy and Building Game for Boys and Girls Age 6 and Up – TOTY Game of the Year Finalist
Challenges young minds to think strategically about their roller coaster designs.
A Physics Sandbox: Thames & Kosmos Physics Workshop
If you just want an open-ended physics playset for your child, Thames & Kosmos’ Physics Workshop kit is a great option. This kit has all the necessary parts and instructions for 36 different physics-based building projects. From simple mechanisms like gears and levers to more complicated machines like windmills and gliders, this kit will cover the basics of how physics is used in engineering.
Thames & Kosmos Physics Workshop
A general kit of physics-based science experiments.