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How Things Work

A book probably isn't the best place to learn how things work. Taking apart a toaster, changing spark plugs on a car engine, or building a crystal radio is going to give you a far better sense of the inner workings of technological systems than words and pictures on a page. Books can be a good place to start, though, especially if you don't have the resources to hand your kids as many old appliances as it would take for them to teach themselves electrical engineering.

How many kids have gone on to become mechanics whose fathers forbade them from entering the garage? Or carpenters, whose parents didn't want them getting wood chips in their hair and clothes? How often does a couch potato learn to fly airplanes in virtue of her laziness? While there are exceptions of course, kids who aren't allowed to investigate it will generally end up ruled by technology, unable to comprehend its "mysteries."

Mechanical devices—from cars and trucks to microwaves and waffle irons that double as lawnmowers—fascinate children....that is, until we attach all kinds of limitationsto them and snuff out any genuine interest. Half the reason we have a population of inept adults is that, increasingly, children are prevented from learning how to actually do anything. The best remedy for this uniquely modern malady is for parents to allow and guide their children in all kinds of practical endeavors, from working on the family car to building a bookcase to figuring out why the toaster no longer toasts.

But what do you do when you (the parent) don't know how to do those things yourself? While you could just dive in, a better option might be to get a book and start at the beginning. Our section is regrettably limited, but we're always looking to expand it with helpful and appealing titles—if you know of any, don't hesitate to send titles or series our way. In the meantime, we encourage you to teach your kids what you know, have a friend teach them practical skills beyond your ability, and just let them have a good time learning on their own, whether it's taking apart a small motor or putting it back together again.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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21 Items found Print
Basher Science: Technology
Basher Science
by Simon Basher, Dan Green
Pap/Pstr from Kingfisher
for 3rd-6th grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)
Big Book of Big Machines
Usborne Big Books
by Minna Lacey
from Usborne
for 1st-3rd grade
in Things That Go (Location: BSR-14B)
Boats and Ships
Voyages of Discovery
by Jack Coggins, ed.
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-6th grade
in Ships, Boats & Submarines (Location: B02-00E)
DK Eyewitness: Forensic Science
DK Eyewitness Series
by Chris Cooper
from DK Publishing
Science Reference for 4th-8th grade
in Espionage & Forensic Science (Location: CGA-10D)
Do It Yourself: Simple Machines
by Buffy Silverman
from William Heinemann
for 3rd-5th grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)
Forensic Science
by Alex Frith
from Usborne
for 4th-6th
in Espionage & Forensic Science (Location: CGA-10D)
Home Machinist's Handbook
by Doug Briney
1st edition from McGraw-Hill
for 10th-Adult
in Crafts & Hobbies (Location: CGA-06C)
How Things Work: Everyday Machines - Coloring Book
by Scott MacNeill
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: A01-DOV)
How Things Work: Vehicles - Coloring Book
by Scott MacNeill
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Dover Coloring Books (Location: A01-DOV)
Look Inside Cross-Sections - Space
by Moira Butterfield
from DK Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Space Race & Exploration (Location: BSR-02C)
Machines & Motion
God's Design for the Physical World
by Debbie and Richard Lawrence
4th edition from Answers in Genesis
for 4th-8th grade
in Answers in Genesis God's Design (Location: B17-02A)
Milliken: Machines and Work
from Milliken Publishing
for 5th-9th grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)
ScienceWorks: Simple Machines Grades 1-3
by Jill Norris
from Evan-Moor Educational Publishers
for 1st-3rd grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)
Ships and Boats
by Chris Oxlade
from Shooting Star Press
for 4th-6th grade
in Ships, Boats & Submarines (Location: B02-00E)
Simple Machines Set
from Learning Resources
for 4th-8th grade
in Science Manipulatives & Lab Supplies (Location: BSR-Top)
Super Structures
DK Inside Guides
by Philip Wilkinson
from DK Publishing
for 4th-6th grade
in Architecture & Sculpture (Location: ART-03C)
Teaching Technology Through Interest Projects
by Jennifer Katherine Brooks
from Critical Thinking Books
for 3rd-12th grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)
Telephones, Televisions, and Toilets
for Kindergarten-3rd grade
Trucks - Coloring Book
Educational Read & Color Books
by Peter & Linda Spizzirri
from Spizzirri Press
for 2nd-5th grade
in Educational Read & Color Books (Location: A02-01)
Underground
by David Macaulay
from Houghton Mifflin
for 4th-8th grade
in Architecture & Sculpture (Location: ART-03C)
Way Things Work Now
by David Macaulay & Neil Ardley
3rd edition from Houghton Mifflin
for 4th-10th grade
in How Things Work (Location: BSR-14D)