Engineering is a big part of science, so a simple machine project with my 5 year old was the perfect addition to our DIY summer science camp. I had originally planned an afternoon of building with a bag full of goodies to inspire tinkering, but it turned into a playful session with a pulley. What I love about this STEM activity idea is that a pulley will inspired open-ended play exploration for all ages, not just a five year old!
The pulley is one of the 6 simple machines. (Before you head off to Google… the others are lever, wedge, wheel and axel, inclines plane, and screw.) The pulley is a delightfully entertaining first engineering science project for young kids. I absolutely loved how long New Kid stayed engaged with such a simple (pun!) activity. I like to think he was learning a lot, too! (Note: this post contains affiliate links)
What you need:
- Wheel, we used an inexpensive pulley wheel like this one
- Rope or string
- Something to tie onto the rope
- A curious kid
I had two different sizes of wheels (I found them in the hardware store, but any wheel with a groove will do) in our inventor’s bag along with some long rope. My 5 year old was immediately drawn to the wheels but I was the one who suggested we thread the rope through the grooves and turn it into a pulley.
I hung it from a hook in our window and we tied a stick to one end. I just happened to have a jar of sticks in the window (I know, that’s sort of weird) and it seemed like a good idea. It acted as a sort of make shift handle and also prevented my son from pulling the rope all the way off the wheel.
I can’t believe how long New Kid played with this simple machine. He loved pulling it back and forth, trying to reach the other end, etc. We tried both size wheels and also tied a stick to each end, not just one. If you look closely, you can see that he decided to give a finger puppet shark a ride.
Who knew a pulley could be such fun?
The classic way to use a pulley is with a bucket!
Later on, we tied a bucket to the string and, standing out on the fire escape, we lowered a bag of cookies to our neighbors in their backyard. I see more special deliveries in our future!
See all our DIY Science Camp ideas!
What science projects are you doing this summer?