Windmills Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

This lesson covers the history of windmills. We'll look at where windmills were first built and learn how they were improved upon through the centuries. Although windmills seem like a thing of the past, we'll see how they've made a comeback.

What is a Windmill?

When you think of a windmill, do you picture an ancient machine that's a thing of the past? Although windmills never went away completely, they have made a large comeback in recent years.

Let's take a look at the history of these great machines.

A windmill is made up of a number of blades that sit upon a large tower or building. It uses energy from the wind to produce motion of the blades.

The motion of the blades produces energy that allows for machines to perform different tasks. Some machines grind grain into flour, some pump water and others produce electricity.

The History of Windmills

The first recorded information on the design and use of windmills can be traced back to A.D. 500-900 in Persia and A.D. 1219 in China. These windmills were used for pumping water and grinding grain into wheat to make food.

Throughout the centuries, improvements continued to be made to the windmill, and designs were shared around the world.

In the 1700s, it was common throughout Europe to find builders, called millwrights, working to perfect their windmill designs. They wanted to find ways to get the most energy possible from the wind and to grind grain and pump water better and faster.

1700s windmill design
1700s windmill

Think about how much energy it would take you to saw through a thick tree. It's exhausting just to think about, isn't it? By the 1800s, windmills had improved so much that they were able to power sawmills, which used large saws to cut through thick trees and turn them into lumber for building. Windmills at this time also were used for processing spices, dyes and tobacco.

Windmills in America

The first wind turbines to produce electricity appeared in 1887 in Scotland. A few months later, an American named Charles F. Brush built one in his own backyard in Cleveland, Ohio.

Check out the picture of Brush's wind turbine below. Can you find the man mowing his lawn? This windmill is HUGE!

Charles F. Brush build a wind turbine in his backyard in 1888.

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