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Children pushing toy cars down wooden boards

Little Steamers: Ramp Racing STEAM Activity

I’m Laura and I teach Little STEAMers classes for children aged 2-5 where we learn about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) with hands-on practical activities.

Teenage girl dressed as scientist

Why is STEAM important in the Early Years?

I love coming up with activities that get young children playing, exploring and learning about STEAM, because that’s how they learn about the world around them. STEAM is the world around them, from gravity making their brick fall to the floor to absorption helping the paper towels soak up their water spillage. 

STEAM learning will continue to be all around them as they pursue their education through school and beyond.  In fact, children who have experience of STEAM learning in the early years have been shown to have a better chance of transitioning into school life with ease along with better confidence and performance there too. 

STEAM in the early years focuses on self-directed play and exploration and so the very best activities get children engaged with and curious about what they’re doing. It might sound a bit daunting at first, but TTS have such a wide range of STEAM resources that it’s easy to bring STEAM learning to your setting any time. 

Below is  simple activity idea you can use to spark children’s engagement with STEAM learning: 

Ramp Racing 

Resources: EY04171 Giant Outdoor Wooden Hollow Blocks 15pk, EY04715 Wooden Plank Collection 12pcs 

STEAM Learning: Science: Gravity; Fair tests Engineering: Inclined planes/ramps; Building structures, Maths: Vocabulary and comparisons with: gradients, speed, height; Measurement STEM Skills: Problem solving; Creativity; Applying understanding 

The blocks and planks provide excellent engineering opportunities for construction, but with this Ramp Racing activity you can add in some extra engineering challenges you might not have thought of before. This activity really gets children problem solving and engages them using car racing. 

What to do:
  1. Get out the blocks/planks and ask children to make a ramp to race a car down. Don’t suggest or show any ideas at this stage, but encourage them to have a go. They may use the triangle shaped blocks first. 
  2. Give them a small toy car or a ball to test their ramp.
  3. Next, ask them to make a new ramp that will make their car go faster. Encourage them to leave the first ramp so you can test and compare the two. This gives the opportunity to use vocabulary such as higher/lower, steeper/gentler, faster/slower. 
Children pushing toy cars down wooden boards

4. Now give them some extra challenges. Ideas may include building an even steeper ramp, or a longer ramp, or a ramp that’s steeper than one and gentler than another. As they build their ramps, test and compare the cars on each. Think about making a fair test by releasing the cars at the same time. 

5. Extend this activity by putting different surfaces on the blocks to test how friction affects the car speed (e.g., bubble wrap, a towel). Alternatively, test different objects to see which roll well on the ramp (e.g., an apple, a cube). 

With many thanks to Laura Cross from Little STEAMers for writing this blog for us. 

Laura is a qualified and experienced teacher who now runs Little STEAMers sessions for schools and nurseries. With Little STEAMers, children play, explore and learn about different STEAM subjects with fun and practical activities. 

Loved this article?

If you enjoyed this activity, why not head over to Laura’s other Early Years STEAM activities by following the link below:

Early Years

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