Cars and Ramps

In this lesson, children will explore physics concepts as they play with cars and ramps in the block area.

Content Area:

Force and Motion

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Explore the concepts of force and motion
  • Develop foundational skills in the use of science practices, such as observing, asking questions, solving problems and drawing conclusions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Exploring the effect of force on objects in the early childhood environment and beyond
  • Expressing wonder and curiosity about their world by asking questions and solving problems
  • Carrying out simple investigations
  • Generating explanations and communicating ideas and/or conclusions about their investigations

Cars and Ramps

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Toy cars
  • Unit blocks
  • Measuring tools (optional)

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Explain that today we are going to make ramps with unit blocks. Discuss what a ramp is and how we can make one.
  2. Discuss how we can roll cars down ramps.
  3. Discuss what happens when we put different cars at the top of the ramp.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. In the block area, encourage the children to construct ramps with blocks. This is a good opportunity for the children to engage in open exploration and experiment with constructing ramps in different ways.
  2. After the children have constructed their ramps, ask them to predict what will happen if they roll cars down the different ramps.
  3. Engage the children in a discussion about the different types of cars and ramps and discuss what will happen when they test out their predictions.
  4. Encourage the children to conduct experiments to test out their predictions.
  5. Ask the children to make changes to their ramps to see what might happen.
  6. Discuss what happened with the children and ask them what they learned from experimenting with different cars, different angles and ramps of different heights and lengths.
  7. Ask the children to make conclusions based on what they observed.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Predict: To guess what might happen
  • Hypothesis: A prediction that states how and why a scientific event may occur
  • Effect: The result of a physical action

Early Science Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not yet have predictive language to guess what might happen
  • Not yet be able to generate hypotheses
  • Not yet engage in lengthy discussions
Child care providers may:
  • Assist children in creating simple ramps so that toddlers can explore how cars move
  • Focus on one size of ramp and one type of car instead of trying out different variations
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Want to document their ideas
  • Want to create plans for their ramps beforehand, based on their prior knowledge
  • May want to use measuring tools (ruler, tape measure) to examine relationships between ramp variations and car types
Child care providers may:
  • Have materials available throughout the day to encourage children to explore cars and ramps independently
  • Provide drawing materials so that children can create plans or document what they have made
  • Encourage children to make predictions about specific changes to the ramps, using language that refers to height, length and angle

Suggested Books

  • Ramps and Wedges by Sian Smith
  • Roll, Slope and Slide: A Book About Ramps by Michael Dahl
  • Zoom! by Diane Adams

Music and Movement

  • Using planks and gross-motor materials, create outdoors ramps that children can climb up and down. Discuss the amount of force needed to go up and down.

Outdoor Connections

  • What natural materials can be used to make ramps? Create outdoor ramps out of these natural materials.
  • Go for neighborhood walks to scout out streets with inclines, declines and flat areas. Discuss how cars roll on these different street angles.

Web Resources

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