Children will experiment with wheels.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

In the context of transportation, the children will experiment with different sizes and numbers of wheels to find out which wheels move faster.


What You'll Need

  • An assortment of different sized wheels
  • Toy cars with different sized wheels (large and small)
  • Toy cars with 4 wheels and toy cars with more than 4 wheels
  • Ramps for racing the cars (thin pieces of wood or cardboard 3 to 5 feet long)

What To Do

  1. Begin a discussion with the children about wheels (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Explain that you brought some different wheels for them to investigate.
  3. Show the children the wheels, and allow them to explore.
  4. Ask children which they think is faster: big wheels or smaller wheels. Why?
  5. Tell the children that they will be performing an experiment by racing a car with big wheels and a car with small wheels. Allow the children to take turns racing the cars down the ramp.
  6. Ask, “Why did this car win?”
  7. Ask children which they think is faster: a vehicle with more wheels or a vehicle with fewer wheels. Why?
  8. Have the children experiment some more by racing a car with 4 wheels and then racing a car with more than 4 wheels. Allow the children time to race their cars down the ramp.
  9. Ask, “Why did this car win?”

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Explain what wheels are used for.
  • What might happen if the wheels were square?
  • Where can you find wheels?
  • What do you use that has wheels?
  • Why do some cars go faster than other cars?
  • How would cars move without wheels? Could your bike still move without wheels?
  • What would happen if we raise the ramp?
  • What would happen if we lower the ramp?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Race other cars down the ramps. Discuss why a particular car went faster than the other; was it heavier, or lighter, or did it have more wheels?
  • Try racing heavy cars and light cars. Discuss why one went faster than the other.
  • Place the wheels, cars, and ramps in a center, and allow the children to explore further.
  • Let the children explore with the wheels during center time.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to demonstrate an understanding that vehicles that are used as forms of transportation have wheels?
  • Could children describe the wheels?
  • Could children explain why one car went faster than another?


Did You Know?

The cars traveled down the ramp due to gravity and kinetic movement. Gravity is the force that pushes everything down. Kinetic movement is energy that comes from motion. A larger wheel will travel a farther distance per revolution than a smaller wheel, so the vehicles with the larger wheels will go farther. The vehicles with the smaller wheels will travel faster because smaller wheels rotate faster, resulting in more speed.

Wheels are important to people because they help people do work. Cars, trucks, carts, wagons, bicycles, trains, and even airplanes have wheels. The wheel is also used for many simple gadgets and machines such as clocks, pizza cutters, and pencil sharpeners. Wheels are everywhere and make things easier to move.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • wheel  a round thing that turns in circles and allows cars, trucks, bicycles, and other things to move.
  • transportation – the act of moving things or people from one place to another.
  • ramp – a flat surface that connects two different levels.
  • faster – moving or operating with speed.
  • investigate – to look closely so as to get information and learn facts.
  • experiment – a test to discover something not known, such as the cause of something.

Lesson Tips

  • Make sure you have enough space around the ramps for the children to comfortably watch the cars as they race down the ramp.
  • If you do not have enough room in your classroom to perform this experiment, take the children outside.
  • If no ramps are available, go outside and use the slide on the playground as a ramp.


  • What Do Wheels Do All Day? by April Jones Prince
  • Wheels by Annie Cobb
  • Wheels on the Bus by Raffi
  • Bears on Wheels by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • Big Wheels by Anne Rockwell

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS