Simple machines: book review + activity ideas
Our five year old is obsessed with robots. I’m obsessed with singalong books. Both of us have been eagerly waiting for Barefoot Books to release its new STEAM themed singalong. In this post, I’m sharing our family’s review of My Friend Robot. I’m also sharing simple machines activity ideas that help young kids explore the same machines Robot uses in the book.
At first glance, My Friend Robot seems like a pretty simple book. On the title page, we see that a little girl has just assembled her new robot. She and her friends want to build a treehouse, and Robot is going to help. The singalong (a CD is included) is set to the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” As the book progresses, all kinds of other layers are added into the story. The music builds in extra layers as well!
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Explore simple machines with My Friend Robot singalong book
Get your copy of My Friend Robot by Sunny Scribens, Hui Skipp, and Norma Jean Wright
The heart of the story is watching Robot and the children build a treehouse, step by step. Each verse features a different simple machine that’s needed to do the job.
The first time my son and I looked at the book, I just sang it all the way through without stopping. The next time, we lingered over the pages to explore what was happening more carefully. Finally, we listened to the CD’s uptempo music while flipping through the pages of the book.
My 5 year old and I spent extra time exploring the page where Robot and friends build the base for the treehouse. Numbered picture are included that take kids through each step of the process.
As many other Barefoot Books do, My Friend Robot includes an element that helps children build their emotional intelligence. When the puppy becomes upset about going up to the treehouse, the kids have to teach robot how to comfort him.
After the story, there are six pages of brightly illustrated bonus material. Two pages explain to children the different types of simple machines and how they help make work easier. The next two pages explore what kinds of work robots can do. This prompted an interesting conversation with my kid about how he wants a robot who’ll eat his dinner for him!
The last two pages of bonus notes explain in basic terms how to program a robot. A simple programming game (no technology required) is also included.
Using My Friend Robot for different ages and stages
There are a lot of different ways this book can be used at home or in the classroom. It’s recommended for ages 3 – 7. I think older 2 year olds would also enjoy aspects of the book and music.
As a Barefoot Books Ambassador, I’ve noticed that parents are eager to move their kids along to the “next stage” of books. For example, some parents will automatically eliminate a picture book, not realizing that particular picture book has more complex vocabulary than many chapter books.
I’ve been introducing singalong books to our son since he was two years old. I had a moment where I wondered if he was “too old” for My Friend Robot. After all, many of the books we read have much longer storylines and many more words per page.
What I noticed as we read the book was that he enjoyed it just as much as he would have at age two and a half, but in a different way. As a two year old, he was mostly interested in the music of his singalong books, and finding his favorite objects or animals in the pictures. When he was younger, we would look at the pictures on any bonus educational pages, but he didn’t want to read them.
My 5 year old loved exploring the bonus pages on simple machines in My Friend Robot.
At age 5, he’s just as interested in the bonus educational pages as he is in the song and story itself. He liked going back through the story pages to find the simple machines. He also noticed little details in the pictures, which helps to build his pre-reading skills.
All this is to say, don’t rush your child to move on to “big kid” books when there’s still so much they can learn from books that may appear to be simple on the surface.
The music of My Friend Robot
The CD that’s included in My Friend Robot has a track with wonderful vocals by Norma Jean Wright (best known for being the lead singer of the disco group Chic.) You can get a sneak peek into this music in the video below.
On the CD, there’s also a karaoke style track with just the instruments, so that a child or group of kids can be the star of the show. This would be perfect for a music class or class performance!
As a toddler, our son loved to listen to the CD of his singalong books over and over again. With My Friend Robot, he likes to listen to the CD once on a car trip as he looks at the pages. Then he wants me to stop the CD so he can go back and explore the details that interested him most.
I loved how each verse of the song added in a bit more complexity or conveyed a different emotion. My 5 year old was very entertained by the robot voice that announces the sames of the simple machines in each verse.
Simple Machines Activity Ideas for Young Children
My Friend Robot coloring sheets
Download these free coloring sheets that are taken from the illustrations of My Friend Robot. Ask your child to identify which simple machines are being used, and how they help the children work. (Having a copy of the book, with its descriptions of simple machines in the educational pages, will help with this!)
Make a photo book of simple machines
Point out the types of simple machines with your kids. These include wedge, wheel and axle, screw, lever, inclined plane, and pulley. Invite them to take pictures of simple machines around the house. For example, your child might find a door stopper, which is an inclined plane. Take a walk through your neighborhood and look for more simple machines in action. Print out the pictures so that your child can turn them into a booklet.
Compare working with a screwdriver and a hammer
Gather a couple of small blocks of wood, screws, a screwdriver, nails, and a hammer. Ask your child to try hammering the nail into one block, and screwing the screw into the other one. Ask which tool was heavier or harder to operate: the hammer or the screwdriver? Depending on your child’s age, you can explain how the spiral on the screw lets the screw attach to the wood easier. This lets you use less force to attach it to the wood than you have to use with a hammer and a nail.
Make a simple pulley
Marnie of Carrots are Orange has a great activity to build a simple pulley. All you need are a small plastic container, yarn, magnets, scissors, and paper clips.
Experiment with levers
Clarissa of Munchkins and Moms has a playful activity that allows preschoolers to try out different kinds of levers. They’ll get to explore whether having a long or short lever will catapult an object farther.