When your children hear the word “machine” they likely think of cranes, conveyor belts or some other complex piece of mechanical technology -- but what would they say if you told them they can make machines at home with their own two hands? Aside from being an excellent way to learn about the laws of physics and explore the concepts of movement, motion, and electricity, these five DIY contraptions are also great ways to get kids thinking about what it means to be a machine!
1. Mini robot craft
These tiny mechanical friends from Red Ted Art will create quite the buzz with your kids and have them engaged for hours. Plus, they’re a great opportunity for kids to learn a little bit about how circuitry and motors work. Composed entirely of wire, a battery, a small motor, foam board, and some optional paper clips and toothbrush heads for extra effect, these little robots will program your kids for an evening full of fun.
2. Propeller-powered car
This quick craft from Instructables gives a great lesson on how energy can be harvested. Using four steps outlined in the article, the craft illustrates how energy can be used to push the mobile forward. While the original version requires a glue gun, there's also directions for a no-glue variation that's just as fun. The best part? This little car can travel up to 40 ft on a smooth, flat surface!
3. Paper plate launcher
The paper airplane is a classic kids craft, but this DIY aircraft launcher from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls takes them soaring to a whole new level. Using nails, a board and a rubber band (three items already probably scattered around the garage), this contraption is as quick and easy as it gets. For even better results, add a paper clip to the nose of your kids’ plane. How high will their paper aircrafts fly?
4. Squishy circuits light-up creature
This funky, hands-on craft from Makezine takes playing with playdough to the next level. These moldable friends light up and even move! Using a special recipe for sugar-based dough that is conductive, this playdough is able to pass electricity through it -- providing an excellent opportunity to learn about circuitry and conductivity. Add some LED lights and a small motor and your child will be delighted with their own moving, twinkling sculptures.
5. Wobblebot alien robot
Besides being adorable, this DIY mechanical robot toy also provides a more challenging and complex take on robot crafts. In thirty minutes and for less than $10.00, you and your child can create this “wobblebot” detailed by Research Parent. Utilizing some wiring, a battery, a recycled CD, the eraser of a pencil, the lid to a slurpee cup and googly eyes, this little mechanical alien is a more complex take on DIY robot crafts. With an optional switch ad-on, it adds a little bit of complexity and is perfect for challenging older kids.
Though they’re just doodads and doohickies, these tiny machines are a great way to get your kids’ gears turning. Perfect for rainy days or any days, any of these five contraptions are sure to capture your child’s interest!