The Kids Book of Simple… – A Book Review


Author – Kelly Doudna

She is a graphic designer and author, who has written over 250 educational books for kids

Book Description (condensed from Amazon)

The Kid’s Book of Simple Everyday Science: These 40 simple science activities will have young kids searching the house for everyday items to learn about temperature, pressure, water, air, heat, and plants! Each easy and fun activity includes how-to photos, simple instructions, short explanations, and introduces beginning math principles. With tips and extra information to extend the scientific experience, this book will get kids thinking like scientists in no time at all! The book includes: supply & tool lists, visual and text-based explanations, step-by-step instructions and photos, and safety information.

The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!: Through exciting science projects and activities kids can easily do at home or school, tomorrow’s scientists and engineers will have a blast learning about simple machines and how they make daily life easier. Book includes: biographical spotlights on famous scientists and inventors; introduction to each simple machine, including real-world examples & history; materials & tools list; infographics; step-by-step instructions and photos; safety information; timeline; glossary; and index

Note: Super Simple Things to Do With Water is just a subset of some of the activities in the Everyday Science book – there’s nothing in there that isn’t in the larger book. I would suspect the same is true of Super Simple Things to Do with Balloons. If you think you would want all the activities, it would be most cost-effective to just purchase the Everyday Science book.


Describes itself as being for kids age 5 – 9. I would say it’s more like 9 – 12 for reading and doing the activities independently. If you’re a parent or teacher who will be working with the kids, then 5 – 9 year olds could understand most of the concepts with your guidance, and do most of the activities with your help. Several activities could be adapted for a younger child with hands-on support.


For …Science, there are 5 reviews, average rating is 4.8. For …Simple Machines, there are 11 ratings, average 4.5, but the only rating under 3 is because the Kindle edition is not compatible with all Kindles. The one 4 star rating was because they felt some projects were too difficult for first graders. 5 star ratings say things like “I taught a 6 week science course… at the museum where I work and this book made it really easy—I had enough ideas for projects in the classroom as well as easy projects for the kids to try at home for homework. I would highly recommend this book.” “…it packs in the right blend of facts, “try it yourself” experiments and fun.” “[In the Simple Machines book] I like that the author brings a bit of history lesson into the mix as well – introducing Archimedes, Galileo, and on to the Wright brothers and Rube Goldberg.”


Everyday Science: A few pages of introductory material (includes a nice summary of the scientific method), a photographic list of all the materials you’ll need to do every activity in the book (straws, nails, matches hot glue gun, Alka Seltzer, etc.) then 40 activities (see below) and a glossary.

Simple Machines: 6 page intro to simple machines, photographic supply list. Then for each of the 6 machines, there’s an introduction to the machine – basically all the content you’d find in a really great kids’ book about that simple machine – with a clear description of the content including photos and illustrations, examples of everyday uses of that machine (e.g. hammers and wheelbarrows as examples of levers), a detailed spotlight on one example of that machine, and examples from history of how machines were used. Then there are three or more hands-on activities that kids can do to learn about that machine.

Format of activities

  • Everyday Science: Title, supply list, icons (indicating if the activity involves high temperatures, sharp objects, or will need adult help), step by step instructions with clear photos to illustrate key steps, and “What’s Going On” section that explains the science.
  • Simple Machines: title, supply list, icons, step by step instructions with clear photos to illustrate key steps. Plus either a “think about it” / “that’s notable” section with questions to ask themselves to reflect on what they’ve learned, or a “push it further” with suggestions for ways to adapt the activity or build it again with modifications to see how it changes the way it works.

Here are some sample pages from Simple Machines (click for bigger image)


Clarity of instructions

Everyday Science – clear and understandable, even for kids age 9 – 12. Simple Machines – the average project is a little more complicated than in Everyday Science, and it seems they sometimes lump a couple steps into one step, or make a few leaps. Better for an adult to read with a child.

Summary of Strengths

Everyday Science is a really nice collection of simple science projects with good explanations. I would compare it with Big Science…., 101 Coolest…, and Curious Kids…  (see below.) All are quite good.

Simple Machines is simply the best book on this topic, as it brings together all the content you’d need to teach about it (i.e. what you’d find in 6 children’s books) plus key activities to teach them. [Some of the activities are challenging for little ones, so if you’re working with kids age 6 and under, I would encourage you to also check out the hands-on activities I suggest in my posts on Inclined PlanesPulleysWedgesLeversScrewsWheels & Axles.] I would highly recommend this book.

Note: This review is part of a series where I  review STEM activity guidebooks that are written for parents or teachers who want to teach science and engineering concepts to kids age 3 – 7 or so. For a full list of resources I recommend, including books for adults, books for kids, websites, curricula, toys, apps, videos, podcasts and subscription kits, see my resource page:

One comment

  1. […] The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun! by Doudna. This volume combines all the content you’d find in six kids’ non-fiction books about each of the machines with 30 hands on projects kids can make using everyday items. Best suited for 9 – 12 year olds to read alone, or 4 – 8 with adult support. Read more about this book here. […]


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