Simple Machines by Tinybop

App review by
Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Media
Simple Machines by Tinybop App Poster Image
Choose your tool, adjust variables, watch it work, have fun.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about simple machines such as levers, inclined planes, wheels and axles, wedges, screws, and pulleys. They will figure out that these tools change force so work is easier. If kids pay close attention, they will begin to notice that there's a trade-off when force is changed. For example, with levers, a longer distance with a little force is exchanged for a shorter distance with less force. Simple Machines by Tinybop is another in an impressive suite of educational apps that also would benefit from a little in-app guidance and instruction for kids.

Ease of Play

Kids can get started with very little direction or support, though there are no explicit instructions.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Opportunity to buy more apps from same developer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Simple Machines by Tinybop is a tool that lets kids explore six simple machines through exploration, and it's one of four apps in the developer's Explorer's Library. To get the most out of it, parents may need to help kids look for patterns and ask questions about how making adjustments changes how well the machine works. A parent dashboard accommodates multiple kids, and an extensions guide is available on the website. Though there's no spoken language, labels for the machines are available in multiple languages including French, Spanish, and German.

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What's it about?

SIMPLE MACHINES BY TINYBOP lets kids manipulate tools and see how they help us do work. First, they choose which machine to explore: wedge, lever, pulley, inclined plane, screw, or wheel and axle. Each machine pairs with an exploration activity: Kids will use a wedge to split up an iceberg, push a lever to destroy a castle, drag planes into the sky with pulleys, lift fish tanks with screws, play pinball with inclined planes, and bike through an obstacle course with a wheel and axle. Each step of the way, kids are changing variables to see how the machine reacts, and they can add or remove an overlay, which shows them the direction of the force and other hidden elements. They also can add labels -- in a variety of languages -- which give them terms for the scientific principles they're encountering.

Is it any good?

Fun exploration is full of surprises as kids play with highly interactive tools, though how much they learn depends on adult involvement. As kids change the type of wheel, width of wedge, or number of pulleys, they can observe how those adjustments alter force and how much work gets done. Aside from the science, there are fun, kid-friendly whimsical moments that will make kids want to keep exploring: Fish jump from tank to tank as the screws move up and down, the wedge-split icebergs reveal surprises, and the inclined-plane pinball game's many moving parts offer endless entertainment. The only drawback is that there's no guidance to help kids analyze what happens. Though this keeps the inquiry student-driven, some kids will need additional coaching to get them to ask questions and examine their observations. Playing with a grown-up will go a long way to focus each activity and enhance potential learning. A short and sweet kids' tutorial with some of the terms used in the labels also would provide an anchor for the concepts each game presents.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the simple machines they see around them. What types do they see? How could they be adjusted to change the force?

  • Build simple machines out of cardboard. Make a prototype or model first to test it. Does the design need improvement?

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love building and engineering

Themes & Topics

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