Sorry for the bad headline pun, but Simple Machines is certainly the most entertaining children’s app we’ve seen about levers, pulleys, axles and screws in a while.
Released by developer Tinybop, which is on a run of great form for inventive educational apps for kids, it’s available for iPhone and iPad.
The idea: to give children the chance to play with a variety of machines and learn about physics. “Destroy a castle with a lever — but beware of the dragon! Make music in a pinball arcade with inclined planes. Send satellites into orbit with a set of pulleys,” explains its App Store listing.
“Lift sloshing fish tanks with screws. Travel through a wondrous world with a wheel and axle. Split an iceberg of mirrors with a wedge.”
That means six machines to explore, with simple touchscreen controls to make things happen and see the “physics at work” behind each.
We enjoyed the spindly-legged man riding a unicycle, scooter and bike in the wheel section, as well as firing a ball around a screen of tweakable platforms to experiment with inclined planes.
Sometimes, it’s possible for children to miss the visual cues as to what they need to do in each experiment, so you might want to sit with them the first time they try – our curious eight year-old figured it out by himself, mind.
Tinybop has done more than create an app, too. It has created a Simple Machines Handbook that you can download from its website in various languages as a PDF file: it has plenty of ideas and discussion points to help you and your children talk about the app.
We love this kind of app, where it’s less about telling children facts and more about them grasping educational concepts through play and experimentation. It’s well worth a look.
Simple Machines by Tinybop costs £2.49 for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, with no further in-app purchases.
Also see this recent blog post from Tinybop’s Raul Gutierrez about the company’s ethos of “creating context” for children in the real world.
“Simple machines are all around us but they’re surprisingly difficult to comprehend, even for adults,” he writes about Simple Machines. “We hope the app will help kids recognise simple machines in the world around them, and spark an understanding of how they work.”