Gears Building Challenge Cards

Gears! Gears! Gears! Gears are one of the best STEM learning toys young children can use. They encourage creative problem solving, spatial recognition, understanding of cause and effect, and so much more. All things that young engineers need to learn! Here are some ideas to build on (pun intended!) gear play plus a downloadable set of fun Gears Building Challenge Cards.

What is a Gear?

A gear is a rotating machine that has teeth along its edges that enable it to mesh with another toothed part. Gears help machines increase speed, change directions, or increase force depending upon the size and configuration of the gears. If you mesh together two or more gears, they are called a train.

Go on a Gear Hunt

Gears are used in machines all around us. A fun way to extend learning with gears is to go on a gear hunt with the kids and talk about how they work in real life. Some places to find them are:

  • Bicycles – Gears help cyclists go faster without having to spin the pedals at ever-increasing RPMs (rotations per minute). The gears lengthen and shorten the chain changing the size of pedal rotation’s effect on the wheel. For example, a low gear may turn the wheel 3/4 of the way around for every pedal rotation. But higher gears might turn the wheel 4x for every pedal rotation.
  • Analog clock or watch – Gears do a lot of things in a mechanical watch! Like help store energy from winding and set the rotation rate of the gear wheels which controls how fast the hands move.
  • Can opener – Gears are used to increase force to make it easier to cut through the metal in a can.

Where else can you find gears?

Building with Gears

Now it’s time to turn all this gear learning fun into a cool building session. Start with some free play with Gears! Gears! Gears! to gets the kids used to how they work. Play around with building flat patterns, building up, and where to put the crank.

Gears Building Challenge Cards

Next up is adding some fun challenges to the kids’ gear building play. First, download these Gears Building Challenge Cards. These gears building challenge cards work with any set of the Learning Resources® Gears! Gears! Gears!


To build each challenge:

  1. Pick a card.
  2. Grab the designated number of gears in each color. The number is noted in the circle on each colored gear.
  3. Set up your base (any size works).
  4. Build a machine as high and wide as the challenge requires.
  5. Repeat if desired as each card can be built many different ways!

There’s even a page with blank gear counts so kids can design their own challenges. They’re fun to use for teamwork building exercises.

Ask Questions to Encourage Creativity

These challenges are a great way to encourage open ended thinking and creative brainstorming. Here are some questions to ask to keep the thought process rolling:

  • What do you think will happen if you ____?
  • How does this work?
  • What is your plan?
  • What might change if you do ____?
  • How could you ____?
  • Are there other ways you could ____?

Check out all of the Gears! Gears! Gears sets to get started with these fun challenges!