How to make simple machines for kids

Written by daniella lauren
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How to make simple machines for kids
A teeter-totters is an example of a simple machine. (teeter-totter image by Rog999 from Fotolia.com)

Simple machines are tools that are used to help make our lives easier. They primarily use energy and have few moving parts. There are five basic types of simple tools: the level, inclined plane, wheel and axle, and wedge and pulley.

Demonstrate how two types of simple machines work by creating an inclined plane and a lever. Allow students to experiment with the simple machines to enhance their understanding of the concept. Since simple machines by nature have few moving parts; all the supplies you will need are easily found around the home or classroom. Experiments with simple machines are appropriate for younger students as well as upper elementary students.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Toy car
  • Plywood board
  • Several books
  • Marker
  • Masking tape
  • 2 paper cups
  • Pencil
  • Small weight
  • Pennies

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Instructions

    Inclined Plane

  1. 1

    Place several books in a stack on the ground.

    How to make simple machines for kids
    Ramps are examples of inclined planes. (skateur image by bacalao from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Set one end of the board on the ground and lean the other end at an angle against the books.

  3. 3

    Place a toy car near the top of the board and let go of it. The car will race down the plywood board.

  4. 4

    Mark how far the toy car travelled and retest with the inclined plane at a greater angle. You should fine that the greater the angle of the board, or the taller the stack of books, the farther the car will travel.

    Lever

  1. 1

    Label one paper cup "load" and the other cup "effort." Place masking tape on the bottom of each cup and attach an end of the ruler.

    How to make simple machines for kids
    Tetter-totters work best when the load and effort are equal. (teeter totter image by Tammy Mobley from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Create the fulcrum of the level by taping the pencil to the table. Center the ruler over the pencil perpendicularly.

  3. 3

    Place a small weight, such as a rock or small toy, in the cup labelled "load."

  4. 4

    Try to raise the "load" cup by placing pennies into the "effort" cup. Record the number of pennies it takes to lift the "load" cup into the air and how many pennies it takes to make the cups level with each other.

  5. 5

    Try to raise the "load" cup by placing pennies into the "effort" cup. Record the number of pennies it takes to lift the "load" cup into the air and how many pennies it takes to make the cups level with each other.

Tips and warnings

  • Expand the concept of levers outside of the classroom by letting children play on a teeter-totter. Create a human "load" and see how much "effort" it takes to move the "load." Adjust the load and effort needed by moving students closer to or farther away from the fulcrum.

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