Preschool lesson ideas for simple machines

Written by rebecca deluccia-reinstein
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    Preschool lesson ideas for simple machines

    According to the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts, simple machines include basic devices that operate on force. Preschool lesson ideas centred on simple machines introduce the principles of physics at a young age. Projects such as inclined planes with toy cars and a pulley delivery system allow preschool children to observe simple machines in action without the need to understand higher-level physics.

    Activities based on the wheel and axle offer just one simple machine preschool lesson idea. (wheels image by Sandra Henderson from

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    Wheel and Axle

    The educator's website BrainPOP Jr. explains how cars, trucks, carts and skateboards all use wheels and axles to move heavy objects. One idea for a preschool lesson about simple machines includes a basic hands-on project focused on the wheel and axle system. The demonstration requires a small bin, several heavy books and a skateboard. Have the children try to move the books by pushing or lifting them all at once and take note of the difficulty. Next, place the same books on the skateboard and have the children compare the ease at which the books move. Expand this preschool lesson idea by asking the children for real life examples of the wheel and axle system, such as dump trucks.

    The skateboard demonstrates the basic principles of the wheel and axle. (skateboard image by Tribalstar from

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    Inclined Planes

    Inclined planes provide easy preschool lesson ideas for simple machines. Also known as a ramp, the inclined plane uses gravity. Create multiple inclined planes of varied angles using boards and books. The inclined plane activity offers a great way to continue the discussion of simple machines after teaching the children about the wheel and axle. Place small cars (the wheel and axle) at the tops of the inclined planes and measure the time it takes for each to reach the bottom. Explain how the greater the incline the greater the force and ask the children to think of places where inclined planes are used in the world, such as wheelchair ramps.

    Inclined planes, or ramps, make moving heavy objects easier. (saverne plan incliné image by Luc DIEBOLD from

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    A very basic preschool lesson idea for simple machines uses the playground see-saw as a lever. If there is no access to a see-saw, make one using a long plank and a stack of books. The idea behind the lever activity includes lifting heavy objects placed on one end by applying force to the opposite end of the plank. This simple machine preschool idea offers a straightforward way to demonstrate how a lever allows people to lift heavy objects with little assistance.

    A see-saw is a simple machine perfect for teaching a preschool lesson. (see-saw image by McDanny from

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    Pulley System

    The ScienceCenter of the Montshire Museum of Science offers a great idea for using a pulley system with preschoolers. This activity uses the basic pulley and rope to deliver messages across a distance. Set up two pulleys in the classroom using rope. Allow the children to attach a note, small object or drawing to one side using a cloths pin. Demonstrate how moving the rope delivers the item from one side to the other. This preschool lesson on simple machines proves to be an engaging activity, which children can operate with minimal supervision.

    A preschool lesson which uses pulleys allows children to engage directly with the simple machine. (pulley of a boat image by timur1970 from

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