The wind up toys are one of the most popular and largest category of automata. This is due to the simple and affordable concept behind them. The shortest and clearest explanation of how they work is available at Wikipedia:
"A wind-up toy is any toy that is powered by a spring that is tightened by turning it. After release, the spring tries to get in its original, untightened position, and makes the small toy go as well"
This amazing wind-up pintacuda can be bought at Amazon.
Wind Up Toys Are Cooler Than Other Toys
Compared to most other mechanical toys, the wind ups have the longest motion time. A well made wind up toy can work several minutes after winding. This can't be beaten by the rubber bands, gravity based toys or other kind of gears.
The wind up toys can perform
different kinds of complex movements simultaneously
- something that can hardly be done with a cam or crank toy for example. That's why most mechanical animals, people, robots or complex vehicles are usually powered by a wind up gear.
The wind up toys are cheap, especially the plastic ones. A simple but very impressive and effective wind up toy can cost less than $5. The tin toys which I prefer are only slightly more expensive.
And finally, there is one disadvantage - with the time the springs of the wind up toys lose their elasticity and efficiency. The old wind up toys have less motion time after winding and some of them can stop working at all, especially if the spring rusts.
Types of Wind Up Toys
There are two main types of wind up toys - plastic and tin. The tin toys are the real classic - they are better looking and usually longer living.
Plastic however made the wind up toys even more affordable. Nowadays many of them are produced in China which makes the price even lower.
What Wind Up Toys To Buy For Kids
Kids love wind up animals and vehicles. The animals are simpler, cute and cheaper but the vehicles have more educational value because the way they move is closer to the real vehicle mechanics. The wind up vehicles are great for children who are interested in physics and natural science.
There are also some very creative wind up toys like for example big mosquitoes with external gears. Such toys are wonderful for curious kids. And some of them are so beautiful that I wouldn't give to kids but would place in my office instead :)