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Simple Playground Pulley

The following activity gives you a great reason to hit the playground running! All your playground needs are monkey bars or bars that are parallel to the ground!

What you will need:

  • 1 small plastic or paper cup/container.
  • 1 hole punch
  • Ribbon/string/yarn (whatever you can get your hands on and that is fairly durable!)
  • Monkey bars!
  • Objects to put into your container (example: pebbles, rocks, etc.)


  • Punch three holes around the circumference of the top of your cup or container about 1 cm from the rim. The holes should be equally spaced out from one another
  • Cut three equal-length pieces of ribbon about 5 inches, one piece of ribbon for each hole you made
  • Tie one end of each piece of ribbon to one hole, the other end should still be loose (again, one piece of ribbon for each hole you made)
  • Take the loose ends of the three pieces of ribbon and tie them all together in a knot
  • You now have a “shipping container” that will carry your load (the objects you will be pulling)
  • Cut one very long piece of ribbon (should be almost twice the length between the monkey bars, and the ground). For example, if the monkey bars are 3 meters off the ground, start with your ribbon approximately 6 meters long)
  • Tie one end of your long piece of ribbon to the knot you just made (the one that combines the three pieces to one another)
  • Place objects into your container
  • Lift up the container using the ribbon. Is it difficult to lift your objects?
  • Next, loop the loose end of the ribbon up and through one of the monkey bars. Your container should be on one side of the bar and the loose end on the other
  • Now try and lift up your objects using the loose end of the ribbon. What do you notice? Is it easier or harder to lift your objects after creating your pulley?

Keep experimenting with your new pulley. Try weaving the ribbon through multiple bars. Try cutting the long ribbon a bit shorter. Take note of all the changes you made and what you noticed from these changes. You are playing and learning about pulleys, gears, and the weight distribution of your load.

It can be a fun activity to try with a friend too! One person can load the shipping container and the other can transport the items by pulling on the long ribbon.

Think of simple pulleys that you might have seen before (clotheslines, flagpoles, cranes, etc.)

They are everywhere out there and you just made another one!

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