Today we talking about how to make a pulley with kids! Kids are never too young to learn about simple machines like a pulley. Pulleys are powerful machines that are the foundation of many of the machines we interact with every day. Building simple machines for kids is a fun and easy lesson at home or in the classroom.
Simple Machines for Kids
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 simple machines and explore how they work.
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
6 Simple Machines Kids Can Identify:
- Wheel and axle
- Inclined plane
Today we want to explore the pulley!
What is a Pulley?
“A pulley is a wheel that carries a flexible rope, cord, cable, chain, or belt on its rim. Pulleys are used singly or in combination to transmit energy and motion.”Britannica, The Pulley
How do Pulleys Work?
The simplest type of pulley machine is called a fixed pulley. This is what people used to use to get water out of a well. There was a large beam or support above the well opening where the pulley was hung (fixed) and a rope was threaded through the pulley mechanism and tied onto the bucket. The pulley made it easier to pull up the heavy bucket filled with water from the bottom of the deep water well. The heavy bucket needs to be pulled straight up out of the well hole against gravity and the use of the pulley allows the person pulling the rope to pull in a different direction and use the leverage of their body weight and gravity to help.
3 Types of a Simple Pulley System
- Fixed Pulley: The pulley wheel in a fixed pulley is permanently attached to the surface.
- Moveable Pulley: The end of the rope is attached permanently to the surface and the pulley wheel mechanism is able to roll along the rope.
- Compound: The compound pulley (like a gun tackle pulley) is a combination of both the fixed pulley and the moveable pulley. One pulley wheel is attached to the surface while the other can freely move along the rope.
Pulley Simple Machine Examples
Fixed Pulley Example: Flag Pole
If you have ever participated in raising the flag, you know that you clip the flag onto snap hooks that are on the rope and then pull on the rope that is threaded through a pulley wheel fixed at the top of the flag pole. You keep pulling the rope until you get the flag raised to the top of the pole and then secure the rope around the cleat on the flag pole.
Moveable Pulley Example: Construction Crane
Next time you go by a construction site, check out the crane(s) that are there. Most likely you will see a floating hook high in the air. Look at the hook closer and you will see that it is attached to a moveable pulley. This helps the crane lift heavy items more easily.
Compound Pulley Example: Window Blinds
You may never have thought about how you raise the blinds each morning or put them down in the evening but it is because of a series of pulleys within the window blinds that make that happen. Usually you can only see what looks like a fixed pulley on the outside, but if you were able to take apart the blinds, you would see that it is attached to another pulley (or more).
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. The center spool of the ribbon container looks just like the center of a pulley. We decided to make a pulley together.
My son and I gathered a few other supplies to create a homemade ribbon spool pulley.
Supplies Needed to Make a DIY Pulley System
When making a pulley, substitute what you have around the house. There are so many ways to make a pulley. This simple machine can be made with all sorts of different household items. We used:
- Two band-aids
- Empty ribbon spool
- Plastic Applesauce cup
- Hole punch
- Plastic army men
How to make a Simple Pulley System
- Punch three holes into the applesauce cup.
- Cut three pieces of yarn the same length.
- Tie one end of each of the pieces of yarn through a hole in the cup.
- Tie the loose ends of the yarn together.
- Tie a really long piece of yarn to the three pieces you just tied together.
- Tape the other end of the long piece of yarn to the inside of the ribbon spool.
- Wrap the yarn around the ribbon spool.
- 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.
- Slide the ribbon spool onto the chopstick.
- Find a location to use your pulley. The length of your chopsticks may determine that.
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.
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:
- Here is another way we made a pulley simple machine and they will learn as they play and discover how it works.
- Make a car pulley for Kids on a Road Trip!
- Try this really simple way to make a boat out of aluminum foil.
- Check out our simple way to fold a paper airplane and then use it in a STEM challenge!
- Try this origami frog for a fun kinetic energy experiment at home.
- We love using LEGO STEM! The bricks you have at home make great simple machines.
- Try this straw challenge and make the most amazing things!
- This engineering challenges for kids uses red cups.
- Science is super fun with this giant bubble recipe!
- Find oh so many more science experiments for kids.
- And a bunch of really fun STEM activities for kids.
- Learn how to build a robot for kids!
How did your homemade pulley turn out?