Kids love learning about how things work, and they especially enjoy participating in hands-on experiments. This simple pulley activity is a great way to teach kids about physics principles while also having fun. This post teaches you how a pulley works and outlines how to make a pulley.
Plus, it’s easy enough for even young children to do! So gather your supplies and prepare to create your pulley system.
This post includes an easy science activity for kids on simple machines: a guide on making a pulley with kids. This post also contains project-based learning book recommendations.
My sons enjoy simple building with blocks, tracks, Legos, beans, marshmallows, straws, rocks, sticks…you name it, they like to build with it.
What is a Pulley System?
A pulley system is a simple machine composed of one or more pulleys with a rope or cable running over them. Pulleys are used to change the direction of a force, alter the magnitude or amount of force, or create mechanical advantage.
In its simplest form, a pulley is a wheel with a groove in its rim in which a rope can run. A pulley may also have a block-and-tackle arrangement to increase the mechanical advantage of the system.
The pulley system is one of the six classical simple machines identified by Renaissance scientists. It was first described by the Greek philosopher Archimedes in the 3rd century BCE. Although it is often considered an ancient technology, pulleys are still widely used in various applications.
This science video introduces a simple machine, illustrating how a simple pulley system works.
A fun educational video for kids solves the problem of getting a telescope into an observatory. You guessed it! Learn how a pulley system can easily lift heavy objects!
Pulley Facts for Kids
- Examples in our everyday world include blinds, garage doors, and even a flagpole.
- These simple machines have been around for thousands of years. The origin is not entirely known, but some historians believe that Mesopotamians used this simple machine to life water as long ago as 1500 BF.
- Archimedes was an ancient Greek scientist who invented the pulley and other simple machines such as the lever.
- The most significant advantage of a pulley system is that it can double the strength applied from the pulley to lift the weight.
- Other names for pulleys include a drum or a sheave.
Download a FREE set of observation sheets for this activity!
Types of Pulleys
The three main types are static or fixed pulley, moveable pulley, and compound pulley.
A static pulley is the most simple and has a stationary axle. In other words, it uses this axle and a wheel to redirect the force of a rope.
Next, a moveable pulley has an axle that has the liberty to move and is also used to redirect forces. In other words, with a mechanical advantage of 2, with one end of a rope anchored, a moveable pulley can attach double force to an object.
Finally, a compound pulley combines a static and moveable pulley. An example of a compound pulley is a block & tackle.
How to Build a Pulley – An Easy Science Activity for Kids
When I came across the book Explore Simple Machines!, I had to pick it up. The book includes 25 reasonably simple, accessible projects for children (and adults) to build to understand better the science behind the machinery behind the building and construction of structures and vehicles.
I also appreciate the history and critical language behind these simple machines, adding context to make learning for all of us long-lasting. The book discusses simple machines and explains this activity. We gave it a shot and thought we’d share it with you.
Make a DIY Pulley with Kids
DIY Pulley Science Discussion
- Talk about how the container moves along the string.
- What causes the container to go faster, slower, unstable, and so on?
- Also, notice the load the “pulley” carries. What does it do?
- Ask, how would it change with the material of the string? of the container? The strength of the magnet?
- How would the pulley be impacted by the weight/shape of the load?
- What type of load is easier to lift?
Simple Machines: Project-Based Learning Books
- Explore Simple Machines! Includes loads of fun historical tidbits and projects that are easy to bring into your home or classroom.
- Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors is one of my favorites. A gorgeous book with loads of hands-on, project-based learning activities for young children. The best part? The projects are accessible to parents in the home and teachers in the classroom.
- Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners is a keeper. I have earmarked this book. I love the straightforward tone of the author. Plus, it is easy to read—an excellent guide for parents and teachers.
Got Your Kid Hooked? Additional Resources for Learning
- Pulley Educational Set
- Learning Resources City Engineering and Design Building Set
- Block & Tackle for Kids
- Pictures of Pulleys for Kids