Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

“Hot Wheels” and Physics?
Come experiment with the science of motion

by Cathy Southerland, Pre-K Mgr, The Children’s Museum of Indiapoli

May 01, 2013

Walking through The Children’s Museum, you hear the oft-repeated plea, “Can’t we please go back to the Hot Wheels™ exhibit?” It is one of the most popular exhibits with the flashing lights, the roaring sounds of the engines and the variety of tracks that propel the little cars down, up and around. Young children love launching their cars on the Hot Wheels™ Fearless at the 500 jump track as they slide down the slide alongside the track.

Did you ever stop to think that when your child is playing with the Hot Wheels cars on those orange tracks that they are testing their theories of physics, science and motion? Like real scientists, they observe physical phenomena, make a hypothesis, test their hypothesis, observe the results of the experiment and develop a conclusion. It looks like play though, and it is!

Physics is the science of motion, and Hot Wheels cars are all about motion incorporating two variables: the object (what travels on a pathway) and slope (which is the incline of a pathway). The new Playscape gallery, which is opening in August at the museum will have ramps where children can adjust the steepness to test their hypotheses about slope and speed. In Hot Wheels™,  the tracks with the loops are particularly popular and educational. Children learn a lesson in physics as they experiment to see which weight of cars can make the entire loop without falling.

You can help your child construct tracks and ramps at home to use with their own objects. You or your child can cut the side pieces from any cardboard box that has long narrow sides (like a cereal box). With masking tape, tape them together end to end, possibly making a small bend to see how that affects the speed of the track. Cut pieces of paper to wrap around the track, taping it on the bottom side so there is a smooth surface on which the object can roll. Once the track is as long as your child wants, you may help your child find various household items to elevate the starting point of the track, experimenting with different configurations in slope and position of the elevated portions of the track.

Enjoy watching your child  try out his/her ideas, and ask questions and comment as s/he is playing to encourage your child’s thinking process . . . and fun!