There is something mesmerizing about pinwheels. The hypnotic patterns that are created when the colors and shapes turn and blend with the wind. Pinwheels are a great addition to any garden or terrace. They brighten the space up and kids love them! We have been collecting different pinwheels over the years and the other day we brought them all together for this fabulous activity. We created a wind farm and explored many concepts, enriching vocabulary together as we played. It is the perfect activity to engage in some hands-on engineering for kids. In the following post, we will explain how you can build your own wind farm and create a wonderful and playful learning experience.
Materials For Wind Farm
- Pinwheels of different shapes, colors and sizes (the more different they are the more comparisons you can make)
- Stable cardboard box (it needs to be stable enough so that even when you poke holes in it, it will not collapse)
- Hair dryer or something that will create wind
Update: We discovered that you can also place the pinwheels in a pot with soil, it will also do the trick!
Wind Farm Tutorial: Hands-on Engineering For Kids
Here are the steps to creating your own wind farm. Depending on the age of your kids you can involve them in as many steps as possible:
- Poke holes into your box and decorate (optional). Make sure the holes are far enough apart so that the pinwheels don’t bump into each other
- Place the pinwheels in the holes at different heights and with different orientations
- Let the wind blow and discover what happens
- Change the pinwheels around and start over or find a windy spot and leave it there to observe when the wind blows
Explore Wind And Engineering Principles With Your Kids
Now that you have your awesome wind farm set up you can take the chance to explore with your kids:
- Play with different orientations and heights and see how many pinwheels you can get moving at once
- Observe the different movements of each pinwheel, which ones turn faster/slower, which ones are harder to move…
- Change the pinwheels around, sort by size, color, number of blades, make patterns…
- If your hair dryer has different power settings, explore what happens with more or less wind, move your hair dryer closer or farther away. Try just blowing or using another source of wind (hand fan)
- Explore new vocabulary: talk about wind direction and strength, orientation, height, stability, number of blades and materials
This is such a great hands-on activity for young kids. They get to change small things, like height, position, orientation and observe the effects of these changes. Great for critical thinking and problem solving. It really is hands-on engineering for kids at its best. Remember to discover and find things out together. Wonder out loud and play. The language we use when engaging in educational activities like this one are key for learning.
Playful Question Time
Here are some suggestions for what type of questions to ask when playing together to maximize learning:
- How many windmills do you think we can move at once?
- I wonder what happens if we change the height/position/orientation of this one? Do you think it will move with this other one?
- From where (what direction) do you think the wind should blow to get these windmills moving?
- Try pointing your hair dryer and getting the pinwheels moving and then ask: I wonder what would happen if the strength of the wind changes now? Play with the settings.
- Sometimes the wind is too strong (if you get too close with the hair dryer), is the windmill stable enough?
- What is happening to the wind? Have your child put their hand between the pinwheels and the hair dryer to feel the wind. Now have them put it behind the turning pinwheels. Does it feel the same? Can they still feel the wind?
Real World Conversations And Reflections
There is so much you can do with this and children will find it fascinating! The great thing about it is that you can have conversations about the real world. Doing an activity like this can lead to challenging conversations about the science behind it and the real world applications. Depending on your children’s age you could try things like:
- Why do you think windmills exist?
- Do you remember seeing any? How big are they in real life?
- Where does wind come from or how is it generated?
- How does a windmill generate electricity? (research together!)
Here is a great explanation of the science and engineering behind wind turbines:
Other fun engineering activities for kids:
- Fantastic Outdoor Game With Great Learning Potential
- Milk The Cow STEM Challenge: Can You Mimic Nature?
More fun hands-on activities:
- Math For Toddlers: Easy Sensory Bath Time Activity
- STEM Nature Box: Sort, Categorize, And Learn
- Beautiful Hands-on Activities For Preschoolers: STEM Nature Eggs
- Simple Science Project For Kids: Float or Sink
- 5 Brilliant Ways To Experiment With Oobleck
- Nature Puzzles: A Wonderful Way To Explore Shapes
Happy STEM learning!