Simple Machines for Kids: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 What Are Simple Machines?
  • 1:21 Uses
  • 2:43 Examples
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: 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.

Simple machines have been used by humans for thousands of years. Come and learn about what simple machines are, how they help us, and some real-life examples of simple machines.

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.


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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