Have your kids ever built Leprechaun Traps? When my kids were in K and 1st grade, they were assigned Leprechaun Traps and they adored it. In fact, they loved it so much that we continue to build Leprechaun Traps most years and they just get bigger and better. If you think your kids are too big, don’t. This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
Now we approach Leprechaun Traps with a Rube Goldberg science project mindset. Like with all design projects, I provide parameters. I let the kids use the design process to build the biggest or best trap that they can build.
What is a Leprechaun Trap?
A leprechaun trap is typically a project that focuses on using your kid’s imagination to design a contraption that will solve the problem of catching a leprechaun. This is typically an open-ended design process project.
That means that if you gave this project to a group of 30 kids, you could wind up with 30 different projects. You can steer the design by providing kids with a list of supplies, a box of recycled materials, or a list of elements that aren’t allowed.
Very young children in a public school environment focus on STEM design and a unit on fairy tales and folklore. However, Leprechaun Traps, are a perfect way to incorporate simple machines, math, and language arts skills like persuasive writing.
My son’s trap built using a box, film canisters, spools, and some coins.
In this trap, the leprechaun will be lured up the makeshift stairs by the promise of the gold coin and then step into the box. The floor is a trap door and will fall down with his weight. No staircase back up means the treasure is safe.
What do you use to build the trap?
I leave this part pretty open-ended. We’ve used boxes, fairy houses, nets, game boards. The options are really endless. The recycle bin can be a treasure trove.
Incorporating simple machines makes this a more meaningful STEM project. The 6 basic simple machines are a lever, pulley, wheel & axle, wedge, screw, and inclined plane.
How to included simple machines in your leprechaun trap.
- Lever – trapdoor or wheelbarrow
- Pulley– use to pull up the pot of gold or a zipline
Wheel and Axle– wheelbarrow, cart, train, or car
- Screw – use for building or a tempting Spiral Slide
- Inclined Plane – a ramp to make it easier to leave with the pot of gold
- Wedge– used to hold the trap shut, scissors or an ax to cut a rope.
There are sets readily available like this fun building set:
You don’t have to buy a set, simple machines can be made out of many household items:
The fewer limitations the more creative the projects will be.
Why Build a Leprechaun Trap Using Simple Machines?
This is a fun project even through high school because kids are using their imagination and science to create. Kinda like a Disney Imagineer. Simple machines lend themselves naturally to design projects. Making simple machines using household items is a great way to get started with simple machines. Then move on to Rube Goldberg science projects and/or these Leprechaun traps.
The science isn’t limited to simple machines. This could be part of a unit on forces & motion or characteristics of life. It is also a great time to mention camouflage and mimicry.
Here is a video, to give you another example of a leprechaun trap in action.
Since all of this can be daunting at first, I’ve broken it down into basic age groups.
For this age, the focus is definitely on the beginnings of the engineer and design process. Ask the kid to identify any simple machines in their project typically, they are there without even trying. They will probably be surprised by the idea that there are simple machines in their project.
For this age, I suggest requiring 2-3 simple machines. I require a way to lure the Leprechaun in the trap and that the mechanism doesn’t require another person to cause the Leprechaun to be trapped. I judge on fulfilling those requirements, ingenuity, and whether the trap is pleasing to the eye.
At this point, kids are starting to get a good idea of the design process and understand that there is a constant need for revisions and improvements in design. You can create intricate parameters based on your studies. I usually require 3+ simple machines, everything I did in the Ages 8-11 category, and an advertisement for their Leprechaun Trap as if they were selling it to the public (a great time to work on persuasive writing).
Need some help with simple machines before you get started?