Simple Machine Science: Launching Ping Pong Balls with a Lever

This simple machine science activity for kids is perfect for any time of year, but we’ve put a winter spin on it. We’ll be exploring the relationship between a lever and fulcrum by launching ping pong ball snowmen in this fun STEM activity for kids!

*This post was originally published on January 15, 2014 and has since been updated.

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Simple Machine Science: Launching Ping Pong Balls with a Lever- BuggyandBuddy.com

Welcome to the third and final day of our Winter Play Day Series! I’m so excited to be teaming up with five of my favorite kid bloggers to bring you 18 winter themed play ideas. I’ve linked my co-hosts’ amazing invitations at the end of this post. Be sure to check them all out when you are finished here. If you missed my previous two posts in the series, be sure to check out our Winter Wonderland Small World and Symmetrical Snowflake Craft(This post contains affiliate links.)

 

Simple Machine Science for Kids: Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen 

Whenever I  invite my kids to participate in science experiments, my main goal is NOT to make sure they master a set concept, but simply to allow them to explore the activity in their own way. Giving this freedom to children inspires them to make predictions and critically think about the world around them in a pressure-free setting.  

We don’t really get snow in our neck of the woods so we have to create our own imaginary snow activities~ like our indoor snowy toy car ramp, or like this activity- launching ping pong ball snowmen!

Ping Pong Ball Snowmen

Materials for Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen

  • Ping pong balls (Optional: Draw snowmen faces on the ping pong balls with Sharpies to make this science activity winter themed!)
  • Wooden yardstick
  • Something to use as a fulcrum (Examples: coffee can, large wooden toy block, a log, or a brick )
  • Small plastic cup
  • Strong tape (like packing tape or masking tape)
  • An open space to do the activity (like your yard or a nearby park)
  • Optional: Paper and pencil for science journaling 

 

Procedure

1. Tape a plastic cup to one end of the yardstick. (We started off with just a few pieces of tape, but soon realized we needed to add quite a bit more to keep the cup from flying off the yardstick. Really tape that baby down with some strong tape.)

Building a lever from a yardstick

 

2. Grab your ping pong ball snowmen, your yardstick (with cup attached) and whatever you’re using as the fulcrum (in our case a coffee can) and head outside. Find an open space (like your yard) to set up your activity.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

2. Place the yardstick over the coffee can (or whatever item you’ve found to use as the fulcrum).

Building a lever from a yardstick

 

3. Put a ping pong ball snowman into the cup.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

4. Give the snowman a little pep talk before his launch.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

4. Push down on the opposite end of the yardstick quickly (with either your hand or foot) and observe what happens to the ping pong ball.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

5. Allow plenty of time for children to explore launching the ping pong balls. Optional: Encourage children to record what they are noticing in their science journals. Younger children can illustrate what is happening with simple pictures. 

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

6. Depending on the age and interest of your child, introduce the terms lever and fulcrum. (A lever is basically a stick or rod that uses a pivot point or fulcrum to move something. In this case the yardstick is the lever, the coffee can is the fulcrum, and the lever is moving the ping pong ball.)

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)- Buggy and Buddy

 

7. Invite your child to observe what happens to the ping pong ball when changing the position of the fulcrum. Older children can use the markings on the yardstick to record the location of the fulcrum in their science journal and how each location affects the distance the ping pong ball travels.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)~ Buggy and Buddy

 

This activity can be a great learning experience for any age! Theo at 2 years old had a blast launching his ping pong ball snowman! He felt proud being able to set up the activity on his own and gained experience with cause and effect.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)- Buggy and Buddy

 

Lucy, age 5, was determined to see how she could set the lever up to get the ball to go the furthest by changing the location of the fulcrum after each launch. And she was very excited to find out what would happen when she launched lots of snowmen at once. She made all kinds of predictions as she explored our lever activity!

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)- Buggy and Buddy

Want to Go Even Further?

Related activities to extend the learning for various ages.

  • Play on a seesaw at your local playground. How is the seesaw the same and different as your ball launching lever? Do you think the seesaw is a lever? Why or why not?
  • Where do you see levers being used in your everyday life? (Some examples: scissors, seesaw, pliers)
  • Go online or to the library and research first class, second class, and third class levers.
  • Design and build a smaller version of the lever we made today.

Launching Ping Pong Ball Snowmen with a Lever (Science for Kids)- Buggy and Buddy

 Winter STEM for Kids: Launch Ping Pong Ball Snowmen

We have lots of other science experiments on Buggy and Buddy that you won’t want to miss! Here are some of our favorites:


Comments

  1. I LOVE your science posts. You are a great teacher! And these pictures are great! You must have gotten a new camera or something. 😉

  2. The simple ideas are always the best. I think my kids would enjoy this, might have to have a landing target too so they can play against each other. Great outdoor play idea!

  3. Thank you for this fun science article. Your article was included in the January Parenting Gifted Children pin Party. http://www.pinterest.com/gruenerconsults/2014-parenting-gifted-children-pin-parties/

  4. stephanie says:

    This looks like way too much fun! Thanks for sharing at After School!

  5. This would be a ton of fun for kids of all ages!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  6. What a great fun activity. I can see kids getting addicted to that. I will be sharing it on my next summer activities roundup today (if you don’t mind) 🙂

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