Experiment with ramps and things that roll.

  • Target Age:  3-5 
  • Subject: science, engineering
  • Related Episode: Roller Monkey


  • a ramp (try cardboard, a game board, or a picture book)
  • blocks or a box (to prop up your ramp)
  • objects that may or may not roll:
  • balls
  • plastic cups
  • plastic bottles
  • crayons
  • spools
  • rolls of tape
  • toy car 
  • socks (a single, and a rolled pair)
  • a book
  • crumpled paper
  • small blocks
  • a spoon


Playing with ramps and things that roll helps your child learn simple principles of physical science and engineering. Use these simple activities to experiment together. Talk about what you see.

1. Make a Ramp: Make a ramp by propping up one end of a game board, a picture book, or a piece of cardboard. (Try using a box or a stack of blocks to prop up your ramp.)

2. Slide or Roll?: Gather objects like those suggested above. Ask your child to predict what might happen when you try to send one of these objects down the ramp: What do you think will happen when you put this at the top of the ramp? Will it slide? Will it roll? Will it stay put? Why do you think so?Let your child try it out. As you play, sort your objects into things that roll and things that don't.

3. Experiment: Place one of the rolling objects at the top of the ramp, but face it in a different direction. For example, place a car sideways instead of forward, or stand a bottle up instead of placing it on its side. Ask your child: What do you think will happen? Will this still roll? Then let your child try it out.

Take it Further

Try these additional experiments with your child. Talk about what you discover. Then make up new experiments together!

  • How far do things go when they roll down your ramp? How can you make them go further?
  • What happens when you raise or lower the ramp?
  • How can you make an object roll faster? How can you slow it down?
  • Put something like a phone book at the bottom of your ramp. Race two objects down the ramp and watch to see which will hit the phone book first.
  • Can you find a way to park a toy car on the ramp without it rolling all the way down, or a way to make a rolling object stop halfway down the ramp?

More Ways to Discover and Learn

Look in a Book

  • Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow by Darlene Stille and Sheree Boyd


Find more activities featuring your child’s favorite PBS KIDS character!