We don't often bring out the matchbox cars in Flex, but when we do, the children very quickly draft their favorites and begin racing across the rug at top speed. I asked the children if they had ever built a race track, and pretty soon they decided that sounded like a fun idea. We used our giant wood blocks of all sizes to build a track that the cars would descend down.
The children wanted a ramp over a gap; we realized that to keep the car moving, it would have to continue downward. They noticed that to keep the track stable, we had to place more heavy blocks against the track.
A competition to see whose cars could make it all the way down (on its wheels of course) and through the gate at the end began. It was very tricky, and some of the kids dropped 2 or 3 cars at the same time to increase their odds.
They learned that it was important for the car to be let go of from just the right spot, and of course, that one could find "even faster cars" to use.
Though the children may not understand concepts of gravity and velocity the way adults do, an activity like this gives children a chance to experiment with speed, angles, and trial and error play in a way that makes sense to them, through toys that are usually just pushed around (or dramatically smashed).
// Mr. McIntyre-Brandt