How Do Things (Like Cars!) Move?

Eliza Clark
October 7, 2009

Some of the questions our preschoolers come up with are harder to answer than others. We think of ourselves as knowing quite a lot, we adults. We’ve been hanging around this world for a few decades, and fancy that we understand how many, if not most, things work.

Then along comes a three-year-old to stump us with: how does a car move?

Seems we should have a good reply ready for this one…. After all, it’s a predictable question from a car/truck/train-obsessed kid. And, of course, many of us spend a lot of time driving cars. But that’s really not the same thing as actually understanding how a car moves, is it?

Okay, so some of you may understand perfectly the workings of the internal combustion engine. Hats off to you. And some of you may have a flawless and intimate knowledge of the Newtonian laws of motion. Bravo.

Others, like yours truly, need to do a little brushing up. But that’s not so hard, after all. Thanks to the brilliant How Stuff Works web site, any parent can become an expert (at least in the eyes of their preschoolers) on the science of motion and engine mechanics in very little time. If, however, we attempted to explain the science to you ourselves we’d just muddle everything – so take our advice, and click through to read and learn.

As for actually demonstrating these concepts to your little one – get down on the floor with a matchbox car and use blocks for a roadway with plenty ramps and obstacles. Your hand represents the engine, and the forces of gravity and momentum will do the rest. Have fun!

From the Parents

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