Many toys are a great for introducing physics for kids. I love how so many of my son’s toys have introduced him to complicated concepts without him even realizing it. From Hot Wheels tracks to fidget spinners, my son’s toys have opened so many opportunities for him to learn about everything from Newton’s Laws of Motion to manufacturing processes. About a month ago, the fidget spinner craze hit our house. At first I was resistant to buy one, but eventually they found their way into our house. Then just a couple of weeks later, my son came home talking all about this this new toy he wanted. As I rolled my eyes to yet another craze, I told him he would have to save his allowance if he wanted to get one. I was able to hold him off for about a month, but as soon as he saved enough for the toy, he asked if he could bring his wallet on our next trip to Target. I said yes, and Beyblades entered our house.
Physics for kids with Beyblades
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For those who are not familiar with Beyblades(as I was not), my son tells me the whole idea of a Beyblade is to battle them with your friends’ Beyblades. A Beyblade is basically a plastic spinning top, but instead of using a string to start the spinning motion, you use a zip cord. To make the beyblade spin, you:
- Attach the Beyblade to the launcher
- Push the zip cord into the launcher
- Pull the zip cord out of the launcher
As soon as my son got home, he tore the wrapping off his new toy and started playing. First he played with it on different types of surfaces, and after letting it go on carpet, tile, and the kitchen counter, he decided to try something different. He found an empty plastic box and let his Beyblade go!
As I watched him, I realized he was playing with two different physics principles:
1. Newton’s first law of motion:
As the Beyblade rotated, it also moved in a line. Eventually the toy hit the wall of the plastic box, and the Beyblade headed in another direction. He had previously learned about Newton’s first law of motion when playing with another toy, so I pointed out to him that the Beyblade was showing Newton’s first law of motion.
2. Translation of linear motion into rotational motion
In the video of my son playing, you see him pull the zip cord out of the launcher, and the Beyblade starts spinning. In physics, this is called translation of linear motion into rotational motion. So what’s happening? Earlier this year, we taught our son another principle of circular motion with another toy. He learned that when a toy is “released” from moving in a circular path, it will then move in a straight line. In the case of his Beyblade, the tangent force (a force in a straight line that touches the edge of the Beyblade) created by the zip cord makes the Beyblade start moving in a straight line. But since the center of the of the Beyblade is held in place by the launcher, the Beyblade starts rotating.
Several common toys use the same principle of translating linear motion into rotational motion. When you let go of a yoyo, it falls straight down, but the yoyo rotates. On the playground you push a merry-go-round in a straight line, but the merry-go-round moves in a circle. Many large machinery in factories also apply this principle to make everything from cars to diapers to fighter jets.
I encourage you to look for this principle in every day life. What else can you find the translate movement in a straight line to movement in a circle? You might be surprised how common this principle is!