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Chain Reaction Science

 Posted by on January 14, 2012
Jan 142012

Let’s have some fun with physics today.  We’re talking about chain reaction science and exploring cause and effect relationships.

Materials Needed:

  • Toys (some with wheels, some without)
  • Ramps (we used train tracks and legos, but you could also used cardboard or flat plastic)
  • Boxes or bins
  • Anything else you can think of

Exploration Prompt

If you place toys at the bottom of a ramp, what will happen when you roll toys down the ramp?

As you explore, place an emphasis on cause and effect.  You can discuss what a chain reaction is as well.

Questions to ask:

  • What happened when you did ____?
  • How could you make _____ happen?
  • How can you make a chain reaction happen with your toys?

The age and interest of your child will determine your role in this learning activity.  The older the child, the less you will participate.  Younger children may need lots of modeling.

I’m going to show you step by step what I did with Aiden.  {He’s two.}  Just use what we did as a springboard for your explorations.

Version 1 – Using train tracks, we created a ramp with a long track.  We placed a toy sheep in the middle of the track and a wooden clock at the end of the track.  We varied the number of trains we released down the track.  {My goal for this was to see how many trains it would take to push the sheep into the clock.}

One train at the top of the ramp.

One train knocked over the sheep, but not the clock.

Two trains at the top of the ramp.

Two trains moved the sheep.

Three trains at the top of the ramp.

Three trains push the sheep a little farther down the ramp.

Four trains.

Four trains push the sheep into the clock!

Version 2 – We set up a short ramp using legos and a piece of train track on top of a plastic bin.  At the end of the track, we placed several different toys.  We varied the height of the ramp.  {My goal for this was to knock the end toy off of the bin with a domino effect.}

Click on the i in the top right corner to view descriptions of the pictures.


Aiden’s turn  – Up to this point, I had been doing all of the setup.  Aiden watched and had fun seeing the trains hit the other toys.  I let him explore with the two setups.  He mimicked what I did pretty well with a few toddler alterations.

Aiden held onto the train the whole time.

So of course it went through the sheep and clock.

Again, he held onto the train and pushed it through the animals.


Aiden created his own little exploration.  He made a tower of blocks and tried to balance a toy car on top of it.  The car kept falling off whenever he moved the tower.

Exploring his own cause and effect.

And two cute pictures just because.

“Take a picture of the tiger, mama.”

I hope you go enjoy some physics fun!




I’m most likely linking up with these awesome people.

  6 Responses to “Chain Reaction Science”

  1. That is SO fun. My son would have a ball doing those activities! We have that same sheep, by the way…lol. Thanks for sharing at Shine on Fridays!

  2. Thank you for linking up to Science Sunday! I’m slow getting around to all of them this week.

    What a great science activity for a little guy! My kids would still love this now.

  3. Great activity! We’ve done a similar one I keep meaning to blog about where we put a train at the top of a steep slope (a hill about two ascending tracks high) and see what is the ideal number of freight cars is for it to make it down the hill and the track beyond without derailing. We’ll have to try this one, too!

    • That sounds like a fun investigation, Jessica. Let me know when you post it.

      You have a blog all about trains? I’m headed over there to get lost for awhile. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Will do!

        Yes, it’s *all* about trains. Because my son is and has been for the past two years now, and I know too much about trains now not to share. :-) Hope you enjoy my site! I’m more or less just getting started, coming back to it after having posted a handful of things last year.

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