Get ready to “ramp and roll” in the classroom with these simple machines! Students experiment with inclined planes in the block area and “ramp” up the fun! Gather some long slats, balls, and baskets to get rolling with preschool ramps.
A simple machine, like the inclined plane, allows the user to place less force to move an object. Examples of inclined planes include ramps, hills, chisels, and wedges.
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Here’s What You’ll Need for Preschool Ramps:
Preschool ramps in the block area create an engaging opportunity for children to experiment with inclined planes. Children use trial and error to get the balls from one place to another using ramps, ping-pong balls, and baskets. Easily create the space with some of these supplies:
- wooden ramps – use the pictured set by Kodo Kids or simply pick up some cove molding from the hardware store (thank you to Play to Learn Facebook page commenter Leigh C. for that great idea!)
- ping pong balls (Dollar Tree)
- wooden balls
- wooden rings
- themed counters (like mini erasers)
- tree cookies
- containers to “catch” things at the end of the ramps like shoeboxes, plastic containers, or baskets from Dollar Tree
Physics in the Preschool Classroom
Children learn some basics of physics when playing in the block center with ramps. During play with these objects, children make observations and comparisons with the speed or direction of the toys. Encourage vocabulary such as:
Describing motion and how these objects are used can help children understand the science of simple machines. Allow time to explore the ramps and balls. If needed, a little adult interaction can help the children set up some ramps. Once they understand how ramps work, leave them to create their own designs. After the students have explored, ask them to explain what happens when they make a ramp higher or lower.
After experimenting with the preschool ramps, bring out toy cars, trucks, and other wheeled toys. Supply different materials for “road” coverings, such as aluminum foil, non-skid carpet covering, carpet scraps, cloth, and anything else that would cover a block to make the texture of the ramp different. Students then experiment with what would make the ramps faster and slower. If needed, ask questions about their thought processes, what will make a ramp faster or slower, which materials are better, and which ones won’t work well. Allow ample time for experimenting, and, if possible, leave “under construction” signs up for multiple days of learning!
Reading Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee during story time will surely spark interest in building preschool ramps in the block area. Consider having a few non-fiction books at the block center as well for students to look through for ideas. Here are a few favorite books about ramps:
- Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee is an adorable book about riding a roller coaster. This is an exciting story with great descriptive words about the motions of the roller coaster. It also points out how people feel about roller coasters, whether they are scared, excited, or anxious. The story can help show how to know what a person feels by looking at their face.
- Simple Machines by Deborah Hodge covers 6 simple machines, including the ramp (inclined plane.) Colorful photographs show children instructions in a step-by-step process.
- Roll, Slope, and Slide by Michael Dahl is a non-fiction book on how ramps are used in everyday situations. It includes fun facts and bright illustrations.
Looking for More?
Set up a construction site in the dramatic play area where future builders can design their houses, then move to the block center to create them. Students use the ramp supplies to make bridges, roads, and slopes, connecting one house to another. Click below for more great block center ideas!
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