Have you ever been to a really tall building and ridden an elevator up to the top? Elevators can lift a lot of weight. That’s because elevators use pulleys!

A pulley is an example of a simple machine. There are six types of simple machines:

  1. Pulley
  2. Wheel and axle
  3. Inclined plane
  4. Wedge
  5. Lever
  6. Screw

Simple machines help make work easier. They are called simple because they have few or no moving parts.

Diagram showing the parts of a pulley and how a pulley works. Rope, wheel, force, and object.

A pulley is made up of a wheel that you loop a rope over. Pulleys make it easier to lift things, even if it's heavy. That's because a pulley system redirects the force you need to lift something. Instead of pushing or pulling something up with your arms, you can use a pulley to pull the rope downward and the rope will pull the object up. It's easier to pull something down than push something up!

Test it out! Find something heavy at home, like a jug of milk or a basket with toys or books in it. Tie a rope around your object. Grab the rope and try to pull it up. It's pretty heavy, huh? Now loop the rope over something, like a doorknob. Pull down on the rope. Doesn't that feel easier?

With a pulley, you can lift things that you wouldn't normally be able to pick up on your own. Pulleys make work easier.

You can find pulleys used in everyday life. We talked about how an elevator uses a pulley. Other examples of pulleys in use are wells and cranes.

DIY Elevator STEM project for kids to learn engineering.

We  made our own elevator with supplies from the September Winkle Crate! If you'd like to learn more about pulleys and make your own elevator, check out The Winkle YouTube channel for step-by-step video instructions and subscribe to the Winkle Crate to get all the supplies for the project sent right to your door.

The Winkle offers free online learning resources for teaching STEM to kids at home. Have a look at our other lessons, including one on Plants and Seeds. All of our lessons have projects to go along with them, making learning science fun for kids and easy for parents.

Free STEM lesson on pulleys and simple machines. Engineering for kids.