All About Simple Machines: Types and Functions

various-simple-machines image
These are samples of simple machines.

Every day you use machines without even thinking about it. A machine is anything that helps make work easier. Basic tools like staplers, screwdrivers and scissors are simple machines. These machines are all based on simple inventions like levers, planes, pulleys or wheels.

Simple Machines Facts For Kids

  • Help do work easier.
  • Six main types.
  • Levers lift things.
  • Wheels help move things.
  • Pulleys lift heavy loads.
  • Inclined planes are slanted.
  • Wedges split objects.
  • Screws are twisted in.
  • Used in everyday life.
  • Make tasks fun and easy!


Levers, one of the six simple machines, are incredibly beneficial in our day-to-day lives due to their ability to assist us in moving or lifting heavy objects with minimal effort. These fascinating machines are present in many objects we frequently interact with such as seesaws, scissors, and tweezers, all operating through the same basic principle.

This principle involves three essential components: the effort, which is the force applied to the lever, the fulcrum, which serves as the pivot point, and the load, which is the object we intend to move.

The unique aspect of levers is that by simply altering the location of the fulcrum, it becomes possible to shift or hoist larger objects with less exertion, demonstrating the impressive capabilities of levers.


Pulleys, a form of simple machine frequently encountered by children in daily life, serve the purpose of lifting weighty objects with reduced effort. This function is achieved by distributing the object’s weight over a broad area, thus simplifying the lifting process.

Pulleys can be found in numerous settings such as window blinds, flag poles, and specific playground equipment. They are also incorporated into more complicated machinery like cranes or elevators for the lifting of exceptionally heavy loads.

When children gain an understanding of pulley operation, they simultaneously learn about the principles of physics, engineering, and how simple machines contribute to the ease of our everyday lives.

Inclined Planes

Inclined planes, one of six kinds of simple machines, are essentially sloped or tilted flat surfaces that make tasks easier for us. These machines, recognizable to children as ramps, slides, or hills, have the unique capability of enabling us to move heavy objects upwards with a reduced amount of force.

For instance, lifting a hefty box and placing it directly into a truck can be quite challenging. However, sliding the same box up an inclined plane, such as a ramp, significantly eases the task. This is due to the fact that inclined planes minimize the effort necessary to elevate heavy items by extending the distance over which the force is exerted.


In their everyday lives, children frequently encounter wedges, a type of simple machine, often without even noticing. Characterized by two inclined planes arranged back to back, wedges are designed to alter the direction of force, facilitating the cutting or splitting of objects, or securing them in place.

This mechanism is utilized in commonplace items like knives, axes, doorstops, and even certain playground slides, making these items recognizable examples of wedges for kids. An intriguing aspect of wedges is their efficiency; the sharper a wedge is, the less force is required to perform its function, demonstrating its effectiveness as a simple machine.


Screws, a crucial type of simple machine often used unconsciously in daily life by children, function as an inclined plane coiled around a pole. Their unique design allows them to move either forwards or backward, contingent on the direction they are turned.

This feature simplifies tasks such as fastening objects together, lifting items, or creating holes. Screws manifest in ordinary items such as jar lids, light bulbs, and spiral staircases. Furthermore, they are integral components in tools like screwdrivers and drills, enhancing the efficiency and ease of our work.

Wheel and Axle

The wheel and axle, a simple yet essential machine, facilitates our work by making the movement and lifting of objects easier. Comprised of a larger circle, the wheel, and a smaller rod-like structure, the axle, positioned at the center, this machine operates through a mutual rotation of both components when the wheel is spun.

Common instances of the wheel and axle are seen in door knobs, car wheels, and roller skates among other everyday items. This ingenious invention not only diminishes friction, thereby simplifying the task of moving objects, but also plays a pivotal role in transportation, which would have been significantly challenging without it.

Mechanical Advantage

Mechanical Advantage, an intriguing concept related to simple machines, is sure to captivate kids’ attention. It is essentially a gauge of the degree of force amplification achieved through the use of tools, mechanical devices, or machine systems. Using the example of a seesaw, a simple machine that operates on the principle of a lever, we can understand this concept better.

The further the distance from the fulcrum, the less effort it takes to lift the person on the other side, thanks to the Mechanical Advantage provided by the lever! This principle applies to other simple machines as well, such as pulleys, inclined planes, wheels, axles, screws, and wedges, all of which leverage Mechanical Advantage to make challenging tasks simpler and more efficient.

Force Reduction

Simple machines, such as levers and inclined planes, significantly aid our daily tasks by utilizing the principle of ‘force reduction’, which diminishes the force required to perform these tasks, thus boosting efficiency. The lever, for example, enables us to elevate heavy objects with minimal effort.

This is demonstrated in the use of a seesaw, a type of lever, where the fulcrum serves as the pivot point. Altering the distance of the force from this fulcrum facilitates the lifting of heavier objects with less exertion. In the same vein, an inclined plane, another variant of simple machines, assists in moving weighty objects upward, requiring less force than direct lifting.

This is evidenced in the use of ramps to transport hefty boxes into trucks. These instances underline the practical application of force reduction by simple machines in simplifying our routine tasks.


Simple machines enhance our efficiency by extending the distances over which we can exert force, thereby optimizing our muscle power. An excellent illustration of a simple machine is a wheelbarrow, which facilitates the transportation of heavy loads with decreased exertion.

The six fundamental types of simple machines include the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw. Each of these devices enhances our work capacity by modifying either the direction or magnitude of a force. Consequently, we can accomplish an equal amount of work with less energy or increase our workload without increasing our effort.

Physics Basics

Simple machines, fundamental tools in physics, simplify our work by enabling us to exert less force over a larger distance, and their understanding can help kids grasp key science concepts. These include levers, pulleys, wedges, wheels and axles, inclined planes, and screws.

Levers, similar to seesaws, aid in lifting heavy items with less effort by spreading the force over a longer distance. Pulleys, on the other hand, assist in heavy lifting by altering the force direction. Wheels and axles help objects to glide smoothly across surfaces, thereby reducing friction. Inclined planes, such as ramps, facilitate the upward movement of bulky objects with less effort.

Screws, essentially inclined planes wrapped around a rod, can either hold things together or lift objects. These simple machines all operate based on basic physics principles.

Various Simple Machines Image - Science for Kids All About Simple Machines
All About Simple Machines: These are samples of simple machines.

Fun Facts about Simple Machines for Kids

  • A lever is a stiff board or bar that rests on a base called a fulcrum. The fulcrum lifts and moves objects. Scissors, pliers, rakes and staplers are all types of levers.
  • A pulley has a rope and wheels. It can be used to pull things up. An old-fashioned well uses a pulley to pull water from underground.
  • A wedge has a pointed end. It can be driven into something to separate it. An axe is a wedge. So is a nail.
  • A wheel and an axle is a type of simple machine. A wheel has a rod, or axle, running through it. Your bicycle wheel has a wheel and axle.
  • An inclined plane has a slope that takes you from a lower surface to a higher one. A sloped sidewalk is an inclined plane. A dump truck and a roller coaster also have inclined planes.
  • A screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a rod. It holds things together securely.
Simple Machines Quiz
Simple Machines Quiz

Simple Machine Vocabulary

  1. Stiff: firm, unbendable
  2. Base: foundation
  3. Separate: move apart
Wedge Under a Door Image
A wedge has a pointed end. It can be driven into something to separate it.

Learn More All About Simple Machines: Types and Functions

Kinds of Screws Image
A screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a rod. It holds things together securely.

Watch this video all about simple machines:

A cartoon video about the types and functions of simple machines.

Simple Machine Q&A

Question: Who invented the first simple machines?

Answer: The Greek scientist and mathematician, Archimedes didn’t invent simple machines, but he did develop and improve them. Early man invented the first machines over 2 million years ago. These were rock axes. People made windmills and water movers around the time of the birth of Christ. Even monkeys and some other animals use simple machines like sticks and rocks to get food.


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