The best outdoor play activities are often the easiest ones! Kids love pulleys, and our homemade pulley system will be a permanent fixture in your backyard this season. No matter the weather, I bet kids will have fun with this DIY pulley all year. Make a simple machine, learn science, and find new play methods. Look for the free printable simple machines pack. Awesome STEM activities are playful too!

Homemade Outdoor pulley for kids Summer Science ActivityPin

Make A Simple Pulley System For STEM

The weather is finally perfect for getting outside and trying new science ideas like our outdoor pulley for kids. We have made some simple pulleys with a cardboard box and rope thrown over the railing of our indoor stairs and this simple PVC pipe pulley system.

This time I wanted to take our science learning up a notch by adding a real pulley system to our outdoor play. You can find everything you need for this project at your local hardware store! 

The hardware store is an amazing resource for alternative toys. Did you see the PVC Pipe House we made? The possibilities are endless. My son loves using “real” household items for play rather than toys. This outdoor pulley system was right up his alley!

It’s amazing what you can make for play and learning. STEM activities are easy and engaging for young children! Try it and head to your local hardware store the next time you want to find a new activity.

It is quick and easy to make a pulley simple machine!

How Does A Pulley Work?

Pulleys are simple machines with one or more wheels over which a rope is looped.  Pulleys can help us lift heavy things more easily.  Our homemade pulley system below doesn’t necessarily reduce the weight of our lifting, but it does help us move it with less effort!

If you want to lift a really heavy weight, there’s only so much force your muscles can supply, even if you are the world’s strongest person. But use a simple machine like a pulley to multiply the force your body produces. 

The object lifted by a pulley is called the load. The force applied to the pulley is called the effort. Pulleys require kinetic energy to function.

The earliest evidence of pulleys dates back to Ancient Egypt. Nowadays, you will find pulleys on clotheslines, flagpoles, and cranes. Can you think of any more uses?

LOOK: Simple Machines For Kids 👆

What Is STEM For Kids?

So you might ask, what does STEM actually stand for? STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The most important thing you can take away from this, is that STEM is for everyone!

Yes, kids of all ages can work on STEM projects and enjoy STEM lessons.  STEM activities are great for group work, too!

STEM is everywhere! Just look around.  The simple fact that STEM surrounds us is why it’s so important for kids to be a part of, to use and to understand STEM.

From the buildings you see in town, the bridges that connect places, the computers we use, the software programs that go with them, and to the air we breathe, STEM is what makes it all possible.

Interested in STEM plus ART? Check out all our STEAM Activities!

Engineering is an important part of STEM. What is engineering in kindergarten and elementary?  Well, it’s putting together simple structures and other items, and in the process, learning about the science behind them. Essentially, it’s a whole lot of doing! 

Helpful STEM Resources To Get You Started

Here are a few resources that will help you introduce STEM more effectively to your kiddos or students and feel confident yourself when presenting materials. You’ll find helpful free printables throughout.

How To Make A Pulley

You will need just four things for this simple outdoor pulley system. We visited the local Lowes {Home Depot or equivalent} for our materials. Want to make a smaller pulley system for indoors? See this one.


  • clothesline
  • 2 pulleys {made for clothesline}
  • a bucket  (These buckets are awesome for so many other things too!)


To make your pulley machine, tie one end of the rope to the bucket handle and thread the other end through the pulley.

You will need another small piece of rope to attach the pulley system to a solid fixture. We do not have any trees, so we used the deck railing.

The only thing left to do is try out your new outdoor pulley! 

Extend The Learning: Pulley Experiment

Turn your homemade pulley into a simple physics experiment.  We used rocks, a few at time to fill the bucket.

Have your child try to pick up the bucket without the pulley and then with the pulley. Does it make it harder or easier? Keep going with a few rocks at a time.

Now try a two-wheel pulley if possible. We used a plant hanger for our set up. You need to put one pulley wheel at the bottom and one at the top.

Test out the 2 wheel pulley with the same experiment as the one-wheel pulley. A 2 wheel pulley will reduce the weight of the load when lifting the load. This time we aren’t pulling down, we are pulling up. 

More Simple Machines You Can Build

Printable Engineering Projects Pack

Get started with STEM and engineering projects today with this fantastic resource that includes all the information you need to complete more than 50 activities that encourage STEM skills!


  1. Love the simplicity of this and the amazing lessons it can teach. It will be a fun science lesson next year.

  2. We were looking for a good toutorial on how to build a pully system for my kid’s playground as the others won’t be open for awhile still & they need a new element to theirs. This was simple & to the point (& no dumb long winded story to go with it as so many blogs have). THANK YOU!!

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