Clockwise and anticlockwise with cogs

Whenever we go to our local shopping centre, we have to pay a visit to two things:

1. Iggle Piggle's boat. The boy thankfully hasn't yet realised that if we fed it pound coins it would move and play music. Instead, he gives Iggle Piggle a hug and explains to his brother that Iggle Piggle has ossicones. I'm not sure that the makers of In the Night Garden thought carefully about the exact classification of the red protrusions on Iggle Piggle's head, so I'm not going to contradict him. I'm just grateful that he never asks to watch that mind-bending programme any more - all the things change size and it hurts my head!

2. The big yellow gears. There are escalators with transparent sides where you can see a big yellow gear at the top and the underside of the escalator moving round. Maddie's Do You Know sparked the enthusiasm for this, and it has continued with a lift the flaps book which has an escalator in it.  Several months later we still have to go and watch them, and point them out to bemused elderly shoppers. 

The previously mentioned Usborne book has all sorts of exciting machines, which he is fascinated by (even if the book is really designed for older children). It also describes the component parts which make up the machines, so I thought it might be nice to explore various simple machines ourselves over the coming weeks, starting with gears/cogs.

We had some cogs at home already, in the form of Duplo (the 'My First Carousel' set). It contains 4 smaller gears and one bigger one, and I've supplemented it with another big one that I got second hand. The cogs work on any Duplo base board and are easy to turn and to reposition - even his baby brother is starting to be able to use them.

I thought it would be fun to explore the direction that the gears turn if they are in different arrangements, so I made a few little cardboard counters with 'clockwise' and 'anticlockwise' labelled. I invited the small boy to invent an arrangement of cogs and to pick one to add a 'handle' to turn. I then helped him label this one as 'clockwise' and asked him to label which way the others would turn. 

Cogs labelled with the directions they turn

We used the labels to show how adjacent gears turn in opposite directions, and experimentes with different arrangements of the gears using a big Duplo base plate to position them. By the time he'd done a few permutations he got pretty proficient at working out which way they would turn and was using the terms 'clockwise' and 'anticlockwise' correctly.

He quite likes these cogs and uses them in his play with Duplo as fairground rides or as the basis for train turntables. I like them because they are nice and straightforward for clumsy little hands and even his brother manages to turn them with ease (although he usually dismantles any arrangement of gears that I build him to play with).

We've got some other cogs designed for slightly older children, and I will blog about what he's done with these soon!