Little Engineers

Help children think like engineers by looking for ramps, levers, and other simple machines all around them.

Engineering may seem complicated, but you can actually build simple machines right in your own home! Ramps, wheels, pulleys, and levers can all be made from everyday objects.


Turn anything flat and long into a ramp. Find a picture book, cutting board, or cookie sheet. Lean one end on top of something to make a ramp. Ask children, “What can we move down the ramp?” Test items with wheels, things that are smooth, things that are rough, and anything else you can find. As you play, ask questions like “What moves more easily?” and “Can we move things up the ramp?” Take the exploration further by changing the angle or length of the ramp.


Build your own lever. Find a wooden spoon, stick, ruler, or another long object to act as a lever. Now find a rolling pin, large book, or other small, bulky object to act as a fulcrum. Lay the lever on top the fulcrum like a see-saw.

Now, tie an empty bag to one end of the lever and see how easy it is to lift by pushing down on the other end. Then fill the bag with blocks, books, or other things. How many things can you put in the bag and still lift it? What happens if you try to lift that heavy bag without using the lever?

Find Engineering in the World

Look for examples of ramps and levers out in the world. Point out ramps that help people get into the library, bank, or onto sidewalks. Point out that the see-saws on the playground are levers. Talk about these examples of engineering and how they work.

Brought to you by SC Johnson

Helping families stay healthy, connected, and full of curiosity.