Simple scientific makes for kids
Over the years, I’ve come across many examples of simple toys that can be made from things you might have lying around the house. The joy to be had from such toys isn’t just from playing with them, but from making them. It is tremendously satisfying and empowering to make your own rubber-band powered boat or balancing bird instead of buying it from a shop.
Strictly speaking, a ‘machine’ is something that does something useful or makes things easier for us, like a car or a vacuum cleaner. But I think that making contraptions and toys provides fun and wonder — and this also makes them useful. It’s not just the finished product that’s useful; the process of making these machines, and getting them to do what they’re supposed to, will help you understand how they work in a way that simply playing with them wouldn’t.
There are other benefits to making things for yourself, including developing your creativity, scientific thinking, problem-solving, and practical skills. I think we all have an innate desire to make things, but often lack the opportunity to do so in the modern world, where so much of what we consume and use is made for us. I don’t want to make any promises, but constructing ‘marvellous machines’ might just bring you joy in ways you haven’t imagined, and make you better equipped to go out and help the world with your own ideas and skills.
Very few machines have changed the world as much as cars have. On the positive side, they made it much easier for people to travel long distances, and to transport things like food from one place to another. However, cars have also been responsible for producing a lot of pollution and contributing to climate change.
Sadly, this rubberband-powered car isn’t the solution to more environmentally friendly transport, but it will provide you with a challenging build and lots of fun if you get it right!
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As a science teacher, I often use toys in my lessons to demonstrate scientific principles in action. One of my favourites is the ‘balancing bird’, which seems to defy gravity and go against all our intuition about how things should balance.
I hope you’ll find this toy as delightful as my students do, and that making your own helps you to learn about how it works so you can go on to design and make other balancing toys.
More marvellous machines for primary school children to make
Enjoyed these quick and easy science makes? There are plenty more to try out!
In Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines (£12.99, Scribble UK), the highly anticipated sequel to Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder from science teacher and writer Alom Shaha, you'll find out how to transform and recycle household objects into homemade toys and machines suitable for ages 7 to 9.
Each of the 15 projects detailed in the book helps kids to develop skills in key STEM areas, encourages the joy of making things. There's no need to invest in expensive supplies or specialist items – the materials, like rubber bands and food colouring, can be found in your house right now.