Inclined Plane Preschool STEM Racing Toy Cars

Create an inclined plane with everyday materials for a fun science activity  Kids can build obstacles, and measure distances as they race toy cars in this exciting play idea.

cardboard ramp preschool activity with toy cars

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Kids naturally explore, and interact with, their surroundings on a daily basis: stacking blocks; drawing shapes; building a spaceship out of a cardboard box.

As they play, kids are developing cognitive and creative skills, through experimentation and trial and error. An activity with an inclined plane is a fun way to encourage hands-on early learning. 

Two options for an inclined plane are included in this activity.

  • The first inclined plane is narrow, a wooden rib from a window blind.

  • The second inclined plane is wide, a rectangular piece of cardboard.

Other materials can easily be used for this activity. The fun and learning begin when you create the inclined plane from whatever you have on hand!

This is a child-led activity, meaning kids can participate in the setup and engage with the materials in their own ways. 

Related: Marble run with an inclined plane

Inclined plane activity


Inclined plane preschool hands-on science activity


1. Narrow inclined plane

  • This inclined plane is a single wooden rib from a window shade. It has a smooth surface so the cars slide down quickly.

Rest one end of the plane against a low bench or chair.

Build a pyramid at the base of the inclined plane for the cars to knock over.

Experiment with a variety of materials at the base of the inclined plane, including small plastic cups, a pile of cotton balls, or a stack of marshmallows!


Popular Hot Wheels Race Track Ramp!   (affiliate link) 


Race cars down an inclined plane to measure distance traveled

Place strips of craft tape on the floor to measure and compare distances the cars travel.


Preschool science fun with toy cars on an inclined plane


2. Wide inclined plane

  • This inclined plane is a piece of cardboard, wide enough for two cars to race together.

Fold over the top of the cardboard. Rest the top portion on a low stool; secure with masking tape. This is the starting line for the race cars.

Color the cardboard with crayons or markers if preferred, or decorate with stickers. This will add an art component to the play, extending a STEM activity into a STEAM activity.

STEAM = Science + Technology + Engineering + Art + Math

Related: Find out more about STEAM in this activity with a homemade catapult!


Science activity - fun with an inclined plane

Place a cardboard tunnel at the end of the inclined plane. Measure the distance the cars go when they leave the tunnel.

Learning through play

  • Experiment with vehicles of different sizes.
  • Race plastic, metal and wood vehicles against each other.
  • Vary the slope of the inclined plane.
  • Sort vehicles according to observations such as: the one that goes fastest; the one that goes farthest; the one that rolls off the inclined plane.


With so many possibilities for setup, this activity can easily be used with kids of different ages. Math and science can be explored and promoted according to the interest and skill levels of the kids.


Preschool science with toy cars on an inclined plane kids can easily make


More hands-on fun with simple machines:


A Simple Machine: The Pulley from Hands On As We Grow

Launching With a Lever from Buggy and Buddy

Simple Catapult for Kids from Little Bins for Little Hands


Science fun with awesome resources

Craft stick catapult from STEAM Kids Book

Craft stick catapult from STEAM KIDS



Find more STEM activities on our Pinterest board.


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