Mechanical engineering for kids: the study of machines is a stem activity perfect for kids who want to discover how things work, just like Leonardo da Vinci.
Mechanical engineering may sound too complicated for kids, but it’s not. Kids love mechanical engineering because it’s all about machines. What kid doesn’t love exploring how something is made. Discovering what makes it move? Uncovering the secret of how something flies. Understanding what makes it go? Machines, from cars and trucks to pulleys and computers, are cool! The best way to introduce mechanical engineering to kids? A study in one of the greatest mechanical engineers ever, Leonardo da Vinci.
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“One of the most fully achieved human beings who has ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is recognized the world over as a figure of infinite curiosity, feverish imagination and sublime artistic ability.”
This quote comes from the book Leonardo da Vinci: Complete Paintings and Drawings. Read it again. Take in what they are saying about one of our great masters.
Most fully achieved.
Wow! If ever there was a goal in life, is this not it? Are these not goals we can all hope to achieve? Is this not the kind of life we wish for our children?
I can only think that a life that is fully achieved would also include happiness and fulfillment. A sense of achievement and intrinsic peace that not only touches the soul but embraces it.
When it came time for us to study mechanical engineering with the kids, I knew I had to focus our studies around the great master. I hope that they can be inspired by his drive and passions. His achievements at a time when so much of what he dreamed and imagined called into question his sanity. A man who truly embraced STEAM, including the all important art!
Leonardo da Vinci is one of the great masters of mechanical engineering. And the perfect launching point for our study on the subject.
What is Mechanical Engineering?
Mechanical engineering is the design and building machines. Kids love to question how machines work and figure out what makes them go. Mechanical engineering is an extension of that passion and curiosity.
Books on Mechanical Engineering
There are so many books available, but for our purposes I sought out books on Leonardo da Vinci and mechanical engineering for kids. They didn’t need to be written specifically for kids, but they needed to be accessible for children.
Please note, Leonardo studied the human body extensively. There is nudity in a couple of these books. If this offends, review the books yourself to decide whether you feel it is appropriate for your class or children.
Here are some of the books we explored specifically on Leonardo da Vinci. The first ones are for children and young adults, with the last row for all ages.
Books on Leonardo da Vinci for Kids
We also explored some other books on mechanical engineering and building machines. Here are a few we liked, all of these are activity books with lots of ideas and inspiration for projects.
Books on Machines and Mechanical Engineering for Kids
Getting Hands On with Mechanical Engineering
A truly great lesson plan involves some hands on exploration! For this session I decided to use a couple of kits to introduce my children to the concepts of gears and how machines work. In order for them to create their own designs and machines later on, they need a solid understanding of these concepts. There are some fantastic kits out there that provide the perfect introduction to machine building. We settled on two kits for our builds: Leonardo da Vinci Ornithopter and Lego Technic Pull Back Race Car.
Lego Technic is a fantastic way to introduce students to machine building. The builds are logical and use materials kids already love… LEGO! The results are also a lot of fun, the pieces fit exactly the way you expect from Lego and they hold securely. Importantly, the final builds work perfectly. My son loves his pull back race car. He keeps sending it zipping up and down the hallways. We have already pulled out the Lego Technic Off Roader for our next build. Soon we will be ready for some head to head machine battles!
The Leonardo da Vinci Ornithopter was a more advanced build. There was a lot of adult assistance needed on this build. Also when they so a “drop” of glue? They actually mean slather the thing in glue. Our build kept coming apart every time we tried to move the gears because the glue points would give way. After a rebuild/reglue session, things worked much more how da Vinci imagined! The boys loved our flying man!
More Mechanical Engineering Build Kits
Looking for more machines to build? Here are a few more on our wish list. It’s heavy on the Technic because these are kits they can build with minimal or no help from an adult. I love the confidence that comes from them building these machines by themselves! But there are a few here that will bring a little extra challenge.
Where do we go from here with Mechanical Engineering for Kids?
My hope is to build my children’s knowledge and skills through using these various kits with the goal that one day they will feel confident enough to start engineering their own machines and inventions! I’ve already started building a machine tinker kit. Complete with motors, gears and more!
What’s in our Mechanical Engineering For Kids Tinker Kit
Mechanical engineering is a great challenge for kids where they get to embrace their own da Vinci curiosity and passion for understanding how things work!