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Newton’s laws of motion. The phrase can conjure up all sorts of unpleasant high school physics class flashbacks. The first law states that every object will stay still, or remain moving in a straight line, until the object is acted on by an external force. In college, my professors explained this concept through the use of complicated calculus equations, and convoluted examples. Then my study group would spend our time together trying to really understand what the professor was talking about.
First, he sets the car into motion by changing potential energy into kinetic energy. Then the car hits a rubber band net, and reverses direction. Then BAM! The car hits a plate propelled by spring energy, and it changes direction again!
I turned to my older son (whose also playing with his brother’s toy now), and asked him, “What would happen to the car if the net wasn’t there?”
Son: It would keep moving off the track.
Me: Right! But what does the net do?
Son: Make the car start going backwards.
Me: Right. It changes the car’s direction. And what does the bulldozer do?
Son: Makes the car move forward again.
Me: Right! And if the bulldozer wasn’t there? Where would the car go?
Son: Backwards, off the track
Me: Right. The bulldozer changes the car’s direction again. So in other words, the car moves in a straight line until the net or bulldozer force the car to change it’s direction.
And that’s how my 3 year old explored, and I taught my oldest son about Newton’s First Law of Motion! If only my physics teachers had used this toy to teach about Newton’s laws of motion. It would have saved me (and them) a lot of frustration!
How do you teach your kids about math and science? Are you looking for other toys to help your children learn through play? Read some of my other posts about my sons’ toys!