Ramping Up the STEAM Learning

By Kodo Kids

Ramps can be used in any type of program to support science, math, and engineering skill development. Ramps and Blocks are friends! Use them primarily to deepen and enhance block play or on their own with accessories as an independent interest center. Look for ways to use them on a small scale in your Science and Discovery area or as loose building parts in your Table Toys or Manipulatives spaces. On a large scale, they are terrific outdoors, in your STEM lab or in a community space.


Ramp play allows you to support children’s growing interests along with your curriculum and assess children’s learning across multiple domains. Uncover children’s learning with your program’s assessment tools in areas such as cognitive development, social/emotional skills, approaches to learning, and more.


A Purdue University study (Gold, Z.S., J. Elicker, D. Bairaktarova, & D. Evangelou. 2017. “Preschool Engineering Play Behaviors (P-EPB).” West Lafayette, IN: Purdue) found that when children engaged in high levels of engineering play with large, manipulable, loose parts, the following behaviors were observed:


  1. Communicating Goals
  2. Designing and Constructing
  3. Explaining How Things Are Built or Work
  4. Solving Problems and Replicating Solutions
  5. Testing Solutions and Evaluating Designs
  6. Creating Innovative Ideas
  7. Following Patterns and Prototypes
  8. Thinking Logically and Mathematically
  9. Using Technical Vocabulary


Ramp Materials for the STEM Area


It’s important to have a combination of basic ramp materials and accessories along with common objects to accentuate ramp play.


Basic Ramp Materials


  1. Ramp Types
  2. Wooden Discovery Ramps
  3. All-Purpose Toddler Ramps
  4. Rubber Ramps
  5. Outdoor Ramps
  6. DIY Ramps


Ramp Accessories


  1. Variety of Balls
  2. Arches and Tunnels
  3. Swiss Ramp Stands
  4. Tubes and Pipes
  5. Loose Parts


Common Objects


  1. Cardboard Tubes
  2. Cushions & Carpet Squares
  3. Sandbags & Beanbags
  4. Boxes
  5. Containers
  6. Natural Materials


Look and listen for children’s skill development and a growing understanding of concepts and behaviors across multiple domains. Every program uses indicators that are very similar but will vary in terms of organization. Your assessment tool will likely include the following types of lenses and examples. By no means is this a substitute for your assessment tool.


Think of this information to practice your observation of children’s engineering play and exploration.




  1. Vocabulary
  2. Converses & Asks Questions
  3. Visual Tracking
  4. Symbolic Writing & Drawing
  5. Literature Connections



  1. Active Learning
  2. Integrated Concept Development
  3. Process Skills




  1. Focused
  2. Intentional
  3. Curious
  4. Confident
  5. Cooperative
  6. Persistent
  7. Flexible & Resilient




  1. Self-Efficacy
  2. Interactions with Peers
  3. Sociodramatic Play
  4. Shared Space & Materials
  5. Communication & Expression
  6. Empathy & Concern




  1. Curiosity & Initiative
  2. Scientific Inquiry
  3. Reasoning & Problem Solving
  4. Operations & Algebraic Thinking

Children’s Books to Support Engineering Skills and Behaviors


There literally (pun intended) are hundreds of fiction and non-fiction children’s books that support engineering, creativity, force and motion, simple machines, and problem-solving. Here are a few titles to get your collection started.


  1. Ball by Dr. John Hutton
  2. How Do You Lift a Lion? By Robert E. Wells
  3. Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  4. Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  5. Ducks Away! by Mem Fox
  6. Time to Build by Kate Riggs
  7. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
  8. Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis
  9. When I Build with Blocks by Niki Alling
  10. Simple Machines: Wheels, Levers, and Pulleys by David A. Adler
  11. Ball by Mary Sullivan
  12. Move It!: Motion, Forces and You by Adrienne Mason
  13. Oscar and the Cricket: A Book About Moving and Rolling by Geoff Waring
  14. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw
  15. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  16. Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty


Book Sets on STEM-Related topics:


  1. Starting with STEAM Book Set
  2. How Toys Work Book Set
  3. Balance Book Set

The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Becker’s School Supplies as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.