Simple Machines for Kids: How to Make a Pulley System

Today we talking about how to make a pulley with kids!

Your kids are never too young to learn about simple machines like a pulley.  Even though pulleys look straightforward and elementary, they are actually powerful machines that are the foundation of many of the machines we interact with every day.

Make a simple machine - DIY pulley for kids - Kids Activities Blog
Let’s make a homemade pulley to explore simple machine science!

We at Kids Activities Blog believe that science for kids should be hands-on and always fun.  It is one of the reasons we love science so much.  It is play!

Simple machines have always fascinated my son. He loves to build them and explore them.

What are simple machines - 6 simple machines demonstrated - Kids Activities Blog
Simple machines are the basis for all machines!

Simple Machines for Kids

What is a simple machine?

Simple machines are all around us and help make our work easier. When simple machines are combined, a compound machine is created.  —NASA

Simple machine, any of several devices with few or no moving parts that are used to modify motion and the magnitude of a force in order to perform work.  They are the simplest mechanisms known that can use leverage (or mechanical advantage) to increase force.  —Britannica

There are 6 identified simple machines.  Have kids watch for these around them:

  1. Pulley
  2. Lever
  3. Wheel and axle
  4. Wedge
  5. Inclined plane
  6. Screw

Today we want to explore the pulley!

Pulley force - simple machine diagram - Kids Activities Blog
Pulleys can make work easier through leverage.

Make a Pulley System

After making him a mobile for my son’s room, I looked at the empty ribbon spool that was left from ribbon on the mobile. It would be perfect I decided for making pulley.

My son and I gathered a few other supplies to create a homemade ribbon spool pulley.

Supplies We Used for DIY Pulley System

Be sure to substitute what you have around the house!  This is a simple machine that can be made with all sorts of different things.

  • Two band-aids
  • Empty ribbon spool
  • Plastic Applesauce cup
  • Chopstick
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch
  • Plastic army men
Our homemade pulley system - Science for Kids: Make a Pulley - plastic basket hanging off stairs on string
Our homemade pulley created with string, dowel and a basket of toys!

How to make a Simple Pulley System

  1. Punch three holes into the applesauce cup.
  2. Cut three pieces of yarn the same length.
  3. Tie one end of each of the pieces of yarn through a hole in the cup.
  4. Tie the loose ends of the yarn together.
  5. Tie a really long piece of yarn to the three pieces you just tied together.
  6. Tape the other end of the long piece of yarn to the inside of the ribbon spool.
  7. Wrap the yarn around the ribbon spool.
  8. Place a band-aid at each end of the chopstick. The band-aids will keep the chopstick from rubbing against the wood of the  banister  or where ever you secure the pulley.
  9. Slide the ribbon spool onto the chopstick.
  10. Find a location to use your pulley. The length of your chopsticks may determine that.
Homemade pulley close up - string wound around chopstick at the top with plastic basket raised from floor
Kids can learn about simple machines as they make a pulley!

Our Experience with making a Simple Pulley System

Once you have created your pulley you will need set it up in location you want to use it in. We set ours up on our stairs. The chopsticks were placed behind two sections of our  Bannister.  If you have headboard of a bed or chair with slats, you could set up your pulley there.

To work the pulley my son pushed the spool towards himself with one hand and held one end of the chopstick. Just rolling the ribbon roll would have worked too.

It is more fun when you have something to lift with your pulley. We placed a couple of plastic army men in ours. They are light and small. They made great items to lift.

Pulley made out of an erector set - simple machine - Kids Activities Blog
What pulley are you going to make next?

More Science & STEM Kids Activities

There are several types of simple machines and even young kids can enjoy learning about them with the right hands-on activity.  We’d love to hear if your child tried to make a pulley.  

For more fun science kids activities, we think you’ll enjoy these ideas:

How did your homemade pulley turn out?


  1. Wow! I’m doing this for a school project in which we need a small duty pulley. This this amazing! Love the design!

  2. Thank you I’m doing this for a school project

  3. Awesome person says:

    Thanks I really needed a good udea for this project

  4. Its awesome

  5. claudia.kishi says:

    cool used it for my school project .

  6. I wouldn’t use this for a school project since it’s not technically a pulley. It is however a great project for toddlers.

  7. Charlotte says:

    I am doing this as a school project thanks you

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