Arriving in perfect time for the long summer holidays, ‘Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines’ is a fantastic book for younger children with inquiring minds. The book follows the author’s earlier title ‘Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder: adventures in science round the kitchen table’. This time, young families are invited to ‘adventures in making round the kitchen table’. This colourful tome is also beautifully illustrated by Emily Robinson to bring the machines vividly to life.
The premise is that Shaha carefully outlines in step-by-step guidance how to construct a range of different machines. No fancy or expensive equipment is necessary – all seventeen devices offered in the book can be made from everyday objects commonly found in household recycling or waste. There are hours of fun to be had in salvaging discarded items and turning them into home-made machines. Shaha’s ideas are accessible to every family: they don’t require acres of space or a garden.
From rubber bands to plastic bottles, drinking straws, cereal boxes and cups, the accessories are easy to assemble. Staples of every child’s pencil case such as scissors, a ruler and sticky tape are needed for measurement and assembly. If you find your child rummaging through the recycling bin, you’ll know why!
Of course, whilst following the book’s instructions and taking part in a creative process is fun, and children love nothing more than the satisfaction of seeing their diligence pay off when they can impress adults with their very own machines, there are other benefits to encouraging young people to run with the book’s ideas. These activities are ideal for developing children’s fine motor skills as they use tools as well as craft and assemble pieces. They will equally well nurture independence of thought and the ability to think through problems until arriving at the solution. All of these separate elements of learning are vital for developing young minds, and the skills they take away with them will aid them enormously in tackling other tasks at school and in life.
We especially liked the section that concludes every section, ‘Mr Shaha says’, in which the author briefly, and in language easily understood (even by parents!) explains the science behind the machine – in other words, why it works! This gives children practical and observable explanations for concepts like the centre of gravity, Newton’s Third Law (forces acting in opposite directions) what sound waves are and how helicopter blades work. So if your child has created a lava lamp, Mexican jumping beans or seen a deep-water diver sink to the depths of a plastic bottle before rising again to the surface, then they know exactly why, and they can impress adults by explaining the science back to them!
One of the machines involves creating an electromagnet, and for that one, some parental supervision may be required, especially for younger children. This is no bad thing, and some parents may wish to be actively engaged in their child’s learning by taking part in the construction of the machines – while allowing the child to do all of the important work, of course. This approach could boost the confidence of children who might not instinctively gravitate towards such activities. ‘Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines’ is the perfect accompaniment for otherwise lazy days during the break from school. It will keep children’s minds active and learning, give them plenty of fun and satisfaction, and provide some family time without having to leave home or pay exorbitant fees.
With seventeen machines to choose from, of varying degrees of complexity, there’s enough to keep children going for a while, though some households may end up wishing for more! Depending on children’s interests, some machines may prove more popular or a bigger thrill to set working than others. A word to the wise for more house-proud parents: one or two creations (especially those involving liquids) are likely to be messier than others, and there’s a risk that the charm of a home-made harmonica may wear thin over time…
This book should have wide appeal among young families. We suspect ‘Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines’ will prove a lifeline for parents of children who love to learn and who may otherwise become restless during the holidays. The author’s gently encouraging voice is sure to nurture the creativity and scientific curiosity in young minds everywhere. There is a lot of enjoyment for families to have together within these pages.
Publisher: Scribble UK Publication date: 8th July 2021 Buy ‘Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines’