Boxes and Blocks: Making Machines
Inventing is 1% inspiration, 99% fun!
- Grades: PreK–K
- Different kinds of tape
- Recycled materials, such as boxes, paper plates, foam, pieces, wire, plastic scraps, paper tubes, fabric
- Paper and pencils or markers
Children will use planning and problem-solving skills to create an original invention.
In Advance: Ask children to think of different kinds of machines and describe what they do. Make an experience chart of all the machines they name. If possible, go on a ‘field trip" in your center or school to look for machines such as telephones, computers, or vacuum cleaners. Return to your room and list the additional machines children noticed.
- Ask children to think about a machine they would like to invent. The machine can do anything they want — perhaps put away the blocks at cleanup time or deliver ice cream every morning. Let children know that they can make pretend machines using recycled materials.
- Make sure you have enough boxes or paper plates so that each child can use one as a base. Set these outdoors, along with other materials.
- Observe as children begin building their creations. Ask open-ended questions to help children follow their own ideas about inventing a machine. Encourage children to talk to one another as they build.
- Ask each child to write or dictate a sentence describing his machine. Place children's words along with their machines on a shelf for display. You might also ask the following questions and record children's responses:
- How could you use the paper tubes on your machines?
- What else could you use to stick the plastic pieces onto your machines?
- How will your machine keep the ice cream cold? Can you use any of the materials to help?
- What kinds of things can you machine do?
- How does your machine help people?
For younger children: Allow children to build and make their own box creations — whatever they may be — with the boxes and materials you set out.
For older children: Place gears and other machine parts in your science center for investigation.
If children show strong interest, offer them more activities about machines. You might add related books to your library corner and place gears and other machine parts in your science center for investigation.
Bring some simple machines that are no longer useful into the classroom. You might include a calculator, a portable phone, and a transistor radio. Remove the backs of machines so that children can see the machine parts. Help children look closely at this machinery to see which pieces are common to all of the objects and which are particular to each one.