Magic Folding Cubes for Babies and Toddlers

Animation of a Yoshimoto Cube folding in multiple directions revealing new sides and then separating into two pieces that fold into separate three-dimensional stars.

For my eighth birthday, I received a Yoshimoto Cube like the animated one shown at right. It’s a plastic manipulation toy held together by an ingenious placement of stickers. It, or a generic knockoff, cost about $5 in the heyday of the mechanical puzzle craze inspired by Rubik’s Cube.

Today you can grab a Yoshimoto Cube for $48 at the Museum of Modern Art web shop. Ahh, inflation. Gotta love it. [Image via The World of Geometric Toy website.]

A toddler would destroy a Yoshimoto Cube in seconds, but it’s a nifty distraction for older kids.

Today we’ll look at less versatile, but still interesting, one-piece folding cubes for babies and toddlers.

To understand how regular cubes fold, check out this demo video of a Magicube, used by companies, often at conventions, as a promotional giveaway item emblazoned with custom images.

And here’s a paper folding cube you can make if you’re insane [instructions].

Got the idea? Okay good, now…

Three photos of the Inside Out Cube, two with babies using them. They are large enough to approach being a third or even half the height of a seated infant.

Inside Out Cube by Earlyears is a fabric cube that unfolds to reveal a total of 12 sides featuring pastel animals, patterns and alphabet letters. It’s intended from birth and up.

There’s no information on size, fabric, filling or washability, but it’s obviously fairly large and I suspect filled with foam.

You’re probably thinking two things right now. One, what kind of company name is Early Ears? Does the company sell prosthetic fetus ears? That’s a very narrow market segment to pursue because ears begin developing by the fifth week.

Okay, okay, and two, how would a baby play with such a huge series of connected blocks? Wouldn’t it be better to have a classic single fabric block that can be clutched in one hand?

I imagine a baby grabbing and pulling the whole thing flopping around, but of course my wife thinks our son would love it.

Well, you decide. It’s $20 at Amazon.

Do-It-Yourself Options for Toddlers

For a 3-year-old who won’t eat or destroy small objects, here are two cubes you can make at home.

Two photos of a wooden folding cube adorned with yellow, green and pink round stickers, the sort of sticker commonly used as a pricing sticker at garage sales.

Elementary school teachers Pat Baggett and Andrzej Ehrenfeucht have laid out step-by-step instructions for making wooden folding cubes. You just need 8 wooden blocks and tape. Then draw on the blocks, or add stickers.

Photo of a photographic wooden folding cube, with three photos visible, depicting a flower, two ducklings and a smiling toddler.

Meanwhile, the Chica and Jo blog shows you how to make photo cubes, among other neat projects. How much fun would it be to fill the cube with the faces of family members?

You’ll need 8 wooden blocks, double-sided adhesive tape and 10 photos cut to fit your cube combinations. One word of caution: if your inkjet-printed photos smear with moisture, use store-printed photos.

Here’s a demo of a completed photo cube:

So, whatcha think?

Update: Yay! Melissa at Chasing Cheerios actually made a magic folding cube.


6 Responses to “Magic Folding Cubes for Babies and Toddlers”

  1. Sara says:

    We have a few of these, both stories laid out in picture form, one of the Christmas story, one of the Easter story. My 2.5 year old loved the Easter one this past year, and as he would flip through the different scenes we would talk through parts of the story. We accidentally left that one in his room during a supposed nap time, though, and it was pretty instantly destroyed while he was playing with it on his own. I LOVE the idea of making our own, with pictures. And I really like the story format, too. It is a fun, different way to “read” something to your kids. This website ( shows something similar to what we have, but all I could find to compare in my 5-seconds of searching.

    August 26th, 2008 at 4:53 am

  2. Honu-girl says:

    My mom made a fabric one of these a few years ago. The one she made wasn’t as big as the one at Amazon, but more like the wooden block sized ones. No pictures – just bright colors. My kids LOVE IT. It’s fascinating to play with – I find myself manipulating it unconsciously if I happen to pick it up.

    I recently asked her if she had the pattern, as I think these would make great gifts, but she can’t find it. I might try to make a pattern based on the paper model.

    August 26th, 2008 at 10:31 am

  3. Ari says:

    Hello all, my company produces licensed Art Cubes for Museums from around the world. Our Art Cubes include a full color gift box and a full color storycard which tells the history of the images/artist/etc… Monet, Klimt, Hopper, Sargent, Steinlen, Renoir, etc… If anyone is interested, please check out our website: Thanks!

    August 26th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

  4. Mama Peach says:

    My previous company used these as marketing giveaways for trade shows. You know, the kind of ‘toy’ whose sole intention is to garner prime desk real estate. My then 2-year old got ahold of mine one time, and was completely enamoured by it. It didn’t matter that the pictures were of boring lab test equipment. I think it was the concept that got her. Not sure how I feel about a plush version for babies though..I’m not against it but I don’t think I care for that ticket price.

    August 26th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

  5. jen says:

    I’ve been much more inclined to purchase cloth toys for my kid in the wake of all the crazy lead paint craziness, the phlatelet craziness, the bpa craziness, etc. What can go wrong with cloth?

    Well, it could be a toy that’s the size of my kid :) As cool as they are, I’m just not sure how feasible they are for a small one to manipulate. Or at least to use with the intended purpose.

    I want to make a photo cube.

    August 26th, 2008 at 6:31 pm

  6. Ang says:

    I am looking to buy one of these cubes for my nephew – all I can find are websites where bulk orders only are allowed – can anyone let me know where I can go to buy just one wooden cube ?

    November 4th, 2008 at 8:31 am