a paper person, balancing on its head

This amazing toy can balance on your fingertip!

This simple toy can balance on a table edge or a fingertip. So get your craft on and have some physics fun!

You will need

  • Thin card
  • Printer
  • Scissors
  • Pencils or textas
  • Paperclips

What to do

  1. a piece of cardboard with a person shape on itPrint out the balancing acrobat template on thin card. If your printer rolls the cardboard a bit, bend it back the other way so that it sits flat.
  2. A picture of a person, all coloured inDraw some details on your acrobat and colour it in.
  3. Someone cutting out a picture of a personCarefully cut out the acrobat, following the thick black lines.
  4. a paper cut out person falling overTurn the acrobat upside down and put the top of their head on your fingertip. What happens? Don’t worry, for now it’s likely to take a tumble off your finger!
  5. someone sticking paperclips onto the hand of a paper personPut 3 paperclips on each hand.
  6. a paper person, upside down, balancing on the top of its headTime to balance! Turn the acrobat upside down and put the top of their head on your fingertip. The acrobat will stay there, upside down!



If your acrobat won’t balance properly, try adding another paperclip to each hand. Or, you can cut a few millimetres off the sides of the legs, to make them a bit lighter.

What’s happening?

Real acrobats are very strong and extremely skilled to balance upside down. Our cardboard acrobat is neither, but it has a clever secret.

You can think of the cardboard acrobat as a seesaw. The middle of a seesaw is called the pivot. On this acrobat, that’s the point on the top of its head where it’s balancing. Then, on one side of the seesaw are the acrobat’s hands, and on the other, its body and legs.

To keep the acrobat balanced on your fingertip, the hands must stay down, and the body and legs up. The hands need the extra weight of paperclips to balance all the cardboard on the other side. Since the legs are so far away from the pivot compared to the hands, the hands have to be much heavier than the rest of the body to create this balance.

Luckily, paperclips are heavy compared to thin cardboard. They can adjust the balance without looking big and bulky. And the result is a perfectly balanced acrobat that looks precarious!

Did you know?

If this acrobat has one hand that’s much heavier than the other, it can still balance on its head. You can experiment with the number of paperclips on each hand to have your acrobat perform at a daring angle!

If you’re after more science activities for kids, subscribe to Double Helix magazine!

Subscribe now! button

4 responses

  1. Peter Avatar

    Not balancing, hanging. The centre of gravity is below the point of support.

    1. David Avatar

      You’re technically correct! The very best kind of correct!

  2. Carol Balshaw Avatar
    Carol Balshaw

    Thank u for this activity. I am looking to print out the template but not sure where I can find the template.

    1. David Avatar

      Thanks for the heads up!

      It should work now, but if it doesn’t, try:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By submitting this form, you give CSIRO permission to publish your comments on our websites. Please make sure the comments are your own. For more information please see our terms and conditions.

Why choose the Double Helix magazine for your students?

Perfect for ages 8 – 14

Developed by experienced editors

Engaging and motivating

*84% of readers are more interested in science

Engaging students voice