Session 1 – Your first automaton

Let’s start with a simple one: the snapping crocodile


Step 1 – Observe the picture! 

This  cardboard moving toy  makes use of a scissor arm mechanism. It has the face of a crocodile but can be changed into a dinosaur or any other animal. With the help of the scissors arms, the child can make the crocodile’s mouth open and close, snap, pinch, and grasp light objects. It allows children to analyse the mechanism and use it as a toy while gaining educational insights.

Step 2 – Watch the video tutorial

Step 3 – Prepare the materials 

What you need is:

  1. Crocodile’s head (see template) or other narrative elements 
  2. Cardboard to cut out 6 or 8 rectangles size 3 x 15 cm
  3. A wooden skewer or an awl to make holes
  4. Scissors or a knife for cutting
  5. 7 or 10 split pins 
  6. Glue (hot glue) 

Step 4 – Follow the step by step instructions below : 

Firstly prepare the Crocodile’s head or other elements.  If you want to make a crocodile’s head, you can follow this model.

Cut out the 6 or 8 rectangles from cardboard (3 x 15 cm) 

Find the centre of each rectangle and make a small hole, just large enough to push the pins of a split pin through.

Make two more small holes at the two ends of each rectangle  

Attach pairs of rectangles to each other with split pins through the centre holes  

Attach the pairs of rectangles with split pins to each other as shown in a) in the figure below 

Different ways how to assamble a scissors arm. a) is the best way

Stretch the scissors arm to its full length.  

Place the 2 parts of the crocodile’s head together so that the teeth fit into each other.  

Glue the head to one end of the scissors arm so that the upper part is attached to one rectangle and the lower part to the other rectangle. 

Try the movement!  if you fixed the rectangles like in figure 3-a) the motion should be smooth. 

A TIP:   The head elements should not be heavier than the rectangles!


Before reading the instruction document below, we kindly invite you to reflect on the  pedagogic implications that this activity can have and to answer the following QUIZ

Welcome to your Quiz about making the Snapping Crocodile

How well you managed to make the snapping crocodile automata?
What was/were the most difficult step/s?
What are the most prominent learning goals?

Read the instructions document