My Toy Box Essay Writing

Time RequiredShort (2-5 days)
Material Availability Readily available
CostVery Low (under $20)
SafetyNo issues


"What?! Many of my toys are also machines?" That's right—simple machines! Simple machines are everywhere! Under your feet when you climb stairs, in your hand when you use a utensil to eat your dinner, even in your arm when you throw a ball. Come visit this science fair project and explore the six types of simple machines. Find out how many are hiding under the hinged lid (yes, another simple machine) of your toy box!


To determine and rank the number of simple machines in common toys.


Kristin Strong, Science Buddies

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "There's a Machine in My Toy Box!" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 28 July 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2018 <>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2017, July 28). There's a Machine in My Toy Box!. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from

Last edit date: 2017-07-28

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Click here to watch a video of this investigation, produced by DragonflyTV and presented by

Did you know that you used a simple machine today? Yes, that's right, if you used a knife or a fork to eat your lunch, you used a simple machine called a wedge. If you used chopsticks instead, you used a simple machine called a lever. Simple machines are in every part of your daily life, from the zippers on your clothes to the hinged doors you walk through, to the sloped bottom of your bathtub. Simple machines are there to make your life easier.

So now you know that a simple machine can bring food to your mouth and close a coat, but can it do something really hard, like lift a gigantic rock? The answer is yes! If you want to see how, just take a look at the DragonflyTV video at the right, and you'll join Aaron and Tevi as they visit a modern construction marvel, the Coral Castle, in Florida, and learn how to move huge boulders with just muscle power and a simple machine!

What are simple machines? They are devices that change either the direction or the size of a force. A force is a push or a pull that can make an object change its velocity. For example, with a simple machine like a pulley, you can lift many more pounds than you normally could by yourself. The pulley increases the size of the force you are able to apply to the object that you are trying to lift. Throughout history, people have used simple machines to build structures that seem impossible to construct without modern heavy equipment. The Great Pyramids of Egypt (built in 2570 BC), Stonehenge in England (built in 3100 BC), and Machu Picchu in Peru (built in 1450 AD and shown below) are all examples of extraordinary structures that were built with simple machines.

Figure 1. These photos show an ancient structure in Peru, called Machu Picchu, that was built with the help of simple machines. (Lisa Urness, 2008.)

Simple machines fall into two groups: Those that balance twists (torques) and those that balance forces (pushes and pulls). Levers, pulleys, and wheels balance torques, while inclined planes, wedges, and screws balance forces. Descriptions and examples of these six simple machines are shown in the table below:

Simple MachineWhat does it look like?What does it do?Examples
A stiff bar, rod, or plank that sits on or moves about a fulcrumLifts or moves thingsHuman arm, baseball bat, boat paddle, broom, chopsticks, door, fishing rod, hockey stick, tongs, tweezers, mousetrap, nail clippers, shovel, wheelbarrow, diving board, crowbar, oars, seesaw, scissors, bicycle brakes, stapler, door on hinges, seesaw, hammer, bottle opener
One or more grooved wheels with a rope or cable inside the grooveMoves things up or down or acrossFlag pole, crane, blinds, sailboat, clothes line
Wheel and axle
One or two wheels attached to a rod called an axleMoves loads or transfers rotational forcesDoor knob, wagon, toy car, pencil sharpener, gears (special type of toothed wheels)
Inclined plane
A sloping surface that connects a higher level to a lower levelMoves things up or down Ramp, chute, slide
A triangular-shaped toolCuts or splits things apartAxe, zipper, knife, fork, nail, chisel, pin, snowplow
A circular inclined plane; an inclined plane wrapped around a poleHolds things together or liftsBolt, spiral staircase, jar lids, lightbulbs, stools, key rings, wrenches

Table 1. This table shows the types of simple machines.

Simple machines are called simple because they are like the building blocks from which other, more complex machines, are made. For example, a bicycle is a complex machine made up of four types of simple machines: levers, pulleys, screws, and wheels. A wheelbarrow and a can opener are also examples of more complex machines that are made up of two or more simple machines.

So now that you've seen that there are many simple machines all over your house, it's time to check your toy box! How many can you find hiding in there? Is there a lever lurking in your baseball bat? An inclined plane on your racetrack? A wheel and axle in your pony carriage? It's time to find out!

Terms and Concepts

  • Wedge
  • Lever
  • Force
  • Velocity
  • Pulley
  • Torque
  • Wheel
  • Inclined plane
  • Wedge
  • Screw
  • Fulcrum


  • What is a simple machine?
  • Why are simple machines important?
  • What are the types of simple machines?


This science fair project was inspired by this resource:

This source describes and provides examples of simple machines:

For help creating graphs, try this website:

News Feed on This Topic

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Materials and Equipment

  • Toys (at least ten)
  • Lab notebook
  • Digital camera (optional)

Remember Your Display Board Supplies

Remember Your Display Board Supplies

Experimental Procedure

  1. Get ten toys from your toy box, play area, or yard and put them in a well-lit area so you can look at them carefully. Write down the name of the toys in a data table in your lab notebook, like the one below.
  2. Take photographs of the toys, if desired, for your display board.
  3. Carefully look at your toys. Try to see how they work. Are there hinged doors (which are levers)? Are there ramps or slides (which are inclined planes)? Is there one wheel that rotates another wheel (this would be a gear—a special type of wheel and axle)? If you look at a bicycle, for example, you'll see screws holding all the parts together. Then there are levers in the handles, gear shifts, brake handles, and pedals, and the pedals turn a pulley. Try to count how many simple machines there are in each toy you have selected and write down your counts in your data table.
    Number of Simple Machines in My Toys
    Toy NameBicycle         Total
    Lever Count           
    Pulley Count           
    Wheel and Axle Count           
    Inclined Plane Count           
    Wedge Count           
    Screw Count           
  4. Look at your data table after you have filled it out, and add up the counts across each row for each simple machine. Write down the total counts in the last column. Which simple machine was used the most in your toys? Which simple machine was used the least? Rank the simple machines from most-used to least-used, and, if desired, make a bar chart showing each type of simple machine on the x-axis and the number of times each was used in your toys on the y-axis. You can make the bar chart by hand, or use an online graphing tool like Create a Graph. If you took photographs of your toys for your display board, print out the photos and label the simple machines that you found on each photo.

Communicating Your Results: Start Planning Your Display Board

Create an award-winning display board with tips and design ideas from the experts at ArtSkills.


  • Design and build a device made of two or more simple machines that completes a task you would like to have done.

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Thank you for your feedback!

by Rudy written 20 days ago

YOUR Toy Box was greatly appreciated by our 4 year old son. He can't wait to see his next box. We even use it as an incentive to be good at school.

A great start...

by Erik written 5 months ago

I just received my first order from Toy Box. I received a Titanium Man action figure (Toy Biz, Iron Man, Series 3), but it had no accessories. I received a Conduit action figure (Superman: Man of Steel), with only the removeable helmet, not his other accessories. I received a Techno-Punch Terminator action figure (Kenner, Terminator 2), but without the accessories. Next, I received a plastic bag containing Magic: The Gathering trading cards. I also received a Legolas action figure (Lord of the Rings), a Wind-up Wario race car toy, a Micro Machines Star Wars: The Force Awakens blue X-Wing and a plastic bag that featured several weapon accessories, none of which belonged to the figures I received. However, I did find that one of the guns that was in this bag worked great for the Terminator action figure. I could complain, but to be honest, I did pick a large number of categories from the list and that provided me with a great deal of surprise when I opened my Toy Box. Some of it was good, some of it was bad. I am thankful for the Toy Biz Titanium Man, the Kenner T2 Terminator, Conduit, the MtG cards and the accessories. However, I would like to see more theme relation in the box and I would like to see the figures with their accessories as much as possible. It is hard to pose the figures correctly or to play with them properly without the correct accessories after all.

Awesome Toys

by Jason written 6 months ago

Got my first box last month, and I intend to stay with this subscription service as long as they are around. I got awesome stuff. ALL action figures, no PVC or glorified McDonalds toys like many people are saying. There is basic knowledge that is required to subscribe to this box however. Think about what you pick to come in your box. an example is, if you pick star trek, that is a very vague checkbox as you don't know what figure you will get, but it's fairly certainly going to be a figure as most of the Star Trek toys are figures, if you pick Star Wars however, u have to think about all the star wars merch out there, and you could be getting any of it. Think about if you pick Nintendo, you're almost certainly going to get a little PVC character as most older nintendo figures were that way and had little to no articulation. Just because it's something you like doesn't mean you should check the box for it when it comes to this toy box. just think about any possible result from your choices and pick the ones that best suit you. if you like PVC Nintendo might be the way to go, I like action figures, so I had to pick ones that almost certainly would be them. also, there is no harm in only having like 6 things checked, that's what I did.

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