Science Activities: Making Things
A few ideas for simple at-home physics projects, mostly for younger children.
A few wise men in Ancient Greece wanted to understand how cranes and catapults work, in order to make them better. This was the birth of the science of mechanics. Sadi Carnot wanted to understand how steam engines work, in order to make them better. This was the birth of the science of thermodynamics, and of our modern understanding of energy. You could argue that our modern understanding of material science grew out of every primitive craftsman's attempts to make a better fabric or a better pot. Science often helps us to improve technology, but the reverse is also true. Tinkering and inventing often provide the motivation and the starting data for new sciences. Science and technology go hand-in-hand.
A child's education in “how things work” should include lots of tinkering and experimentation with toys that do something interesting or useful. Often, children can make toys that mimic or illustrate basic principles or basic devices that exist in our modern technological world. The following list gives a few projects that I used in my own classes as a science teacher (plus a few I invented since I left teaching). The smelting activity requires special equipment, but most of them can be done with simple, cheap, everyday supplies.