Simple Machines for Kids: Definition & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Explore the world of simple machines and learn how they work with few to no moving parts. Discover the six different types of simple machines and how they are used every day. Updated: 12/27/2021

What Are Simple Machines?

Pretend that you are living on this world thousands of years ago as a caveman. There is no technology. There are no modern appliances. In fact, there are little to no inventions whatsoever. You have a job to do today: you need to get something that is stuck under a big boulder. The boulder is so heavy that it is difficult to move it on your own. There's nothing around to help you, except a stick. What would you do? The easiest thing to do would be to put the stick under the boulder, push down on the end of the stick to move the boulder and retrieve the stuck object. Well, some scientists believe that this is how simple machines got started.

Simple machines have few or no moving parts. Just like the stick, they use energy to work with one movement. Work is the amount of energy that is needed to move an object across a distance. Basically, when you pull, push or move something, you are performing work. The further you push, pull or move an object, the greater amount of work is needed.

There are six different types of simple machines: the inclined plane, the wedge, the screw, the lever, the pulley, and the wheel and axle. Each simple machine has a special way to make work easier for humans.

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  • 0:05 What Are Simple Machines?
  • 1:21 Uses
  • 2:43 Examples
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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The main advantage of using simple machines is to make work easier. They allow us to use less effort to move an object. While you are technically doing the same amount of work, simple machines make it feel a lot easier because it takes less effort. Effort is the force used to move an object, which is not the same thing as work.

Let's say you try to push over a concrete wall with your bare hands, which is impossible. This would take effort, but you haven't done any work because the object has not moved. Now, what if you wanted to pick up a feather from the floor? This would take almost no effort because the feathers are so light, but you've done work because you moved the feather.

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Additional Activities

Pulley Play: Hands-on Activity

In this activity, the student will make a simple machine, the pulley. Observations of the pulley's mechanism will be noted. The materials, procedure, and assessment of the activity are described in the next section.


  • yarn
  • 2 small plastic cups
  • scissors
  • water
  • lego blocks


1. Gather your materials.

2. With the use of your scissors, make two tiny holes under the rim of the plastic cups.

3. Cut a piece of yarn long enough to go through both holes.

4. Tie the yarn from the loose ends. Do both steps 3 and 4 for both plastic cups.

5. Cut a piece of yarn to connect both cups from the string on their rims.

6. Place the set up on a doorknob in your home.

7. Place the lego blocks in one cup.


Imagine that you work on a construction site and that you need to lift the lego blocks up to a high point of the building.

Pour the water into the other cup.

1. What happened to the cup with the lego blocks?

2. What happened to the cup with water?

3. What role did the water play in this pulley machine?

4. Research and name some pulley machines used in the real world.

Possible Answers

1. The cup with the lego blocks was lifted up.

2. The cup with water was pulled down.

3. The cup with water acted as the force exerted to lift the other end of the string.

4. Some of the pulley machines used in the real world are found in the flag poles, theatre curtains, cranes, garage doors, and many others.

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