Wooden Cars

DSC_0798Little Makers: Wooden Cars

(March 2014)

Topics: Engineering, Physics, Woodworking

Place: Fayetteville Free Library

Dates: Tuesday, 3/11 from 5:30-6:30pm; Saturday, 3/15 from 10:30-11:30am

Educational Content: We learned:

  • The parts of a car including the body, engine, wheels, and axles.
  • Wheels reduce friction. Instead of simply sliding over the ground, the wheels dig in and rotate, turning around sturdy rods called axles.
  • Making the cars move requires force and motion. Our wooden cars do not have engines, so they must be pushed or pulled.
  • Potential energy is the energy that an object has at the top of a ramp. When you let go of the car, gravity will act on the car and transform the potential energy into kinetic energy or motion.
  • We also learned how to hold a hammer and strike a nail safely!

Books & Resources:



  1. I started off by reading our first book Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming! to get the kids excited about cars.
  2. The second book we read was called Move it: Forces, Motion, and You!which is a great way to introduce kids to the concepts of motion and force in a way that’s easy to understand. It shows pictures of kids in motion (throwing a ball, running, etc.) asks kids to think about whether a push or pull is involved in that action.
  3. Then, I asked the kids how their parents cars move. Answers included with gasoline, or with an engine. Then I told them that our cars would not have motors and asked them how they thought our cars would move. They immediately understood that they would have to act as a force on the cars.
  4. Then I handed each child a wooden car body. (We pre-cut the shape of the body before the program using a hand saw to get a more aerodynamic shape. The extra triangular piece was used as a tail fin.)
  5. Then, one at a time, each child got to hammer their axle (a nail) into their wheel. We used a clamp to hold the cars in place and had them wrap one hand around the handle of the hammer and one hand around the claw, so there was no chance of hitting little fingers! Also. beware of hammering the nail in too tightly, because the wheel needs room to spin!
  6. After we made the cars, we tested them out with different amounts of force, and on different incline plains. We learned that if the axles were crooked, the cars wouldn’t roll in a straight line.
  7. After we were done experimenting with the cars, I let the kids paint them and take them home.