3 electrifying science projects to entertain (and educate) the kids


Winter school holidays can be tough on kids (and parents), particularly if the weather limits outdoor activities. To help you lure your kids away from their screens, we’ve found some DIY electricity projects that are entertaining and educational, plus you’ll have most of the ingredients in the kitchen cupboard. 

1. Be a wizard with static electricity
For younger kids, playing around with static electricity is both lots of fun and super safe. This first experiment requires nothing more than a human head of hair, a comb and a small bowl of salt and pepper, mixed together.

One of the kids needs to run the comb through their hair, to ‘charge it up’, and then holds the comb over the bowl of salt and pepper.

Before your eyes, the pepper will ‘jump’ out of the bowl onto the comb — as if by magic!
What’s really going on is this: all things are made up of atoms, and all atoms are made up of protons (positive), electrons (negative) and neutrons (neutral).

When you rub two things together, some electrons (negative) move from one to the other, making the two things attracted to each other. In this experiment, the positive protons in the pepper are drawn to the negatively charged comb. (Your kids’ friends might not know this, so they can impress them with the ‘magic’ and then fill their friends in on how static electricity works.)

2. Jumping goop!
For this experiment you’ll need: ¼ cup cornflour, ¼ cup vegetable oil and a balloon.
Mix the cornflour and oil in a bowl until it thickens. Blow up the balloon and tie it off. 
Then, statically charge the balloon by rubbing it on your hair.

Scoop out a spoonful of the cornflour/oil mixture (‘goop’) and hold it close to the balloon. Watch the goop move towards the balloon. Slowly move the balloon away from the spoon, and the goop should follow! Re-charge the balloon and repeat the experiment as many times as you like. 

3. And one for the bigger kids … make your own electromagnet
Slightly more complicated, this project means getting your hands on a few things, such as a 9V, 6V and 1.5 battery; a 60cm piece of insulated copper wire; a large steel or iron bolt; and some paperclips or small iron weights.

Strip 2cm of the insulation off both ends of the wire. Wrap it tightly around the bolt as many times as you can, keeping each loop as close to the next as possible. 

Connect the ends of the wire to each end of the battery. Use the bolt to pick up the paper clips or weights. You can experiment with the size of the battery and whether you can lift heavier weights if the voltage is increased.

We hope you (and the kids) enjoy these easy and electrifying experiments. Have fun and stay safe over the holidays!    


Date: 21 June 2016
Category: Living Sustainably

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