Kid Science: Experimenting with Static Electricity

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids cover photo

Earlier this fall Mandy and I asked on Facebook what other types of things you would like to see on Gaining Mommymentum. It was something I hadn’t really thought about before but I have had SO MUCH FUN exploring science with my little guy ever since. Back in November I shared our simple celery experiment (which, as I mentioned in that post, was likely more suitable for an older child who could understand and discuss the how and why of what was going on a little more than my two-year-old) but this month I thought going a little more hands-on might be the way to go for the younger crowd.

It is COLD outside here in St. Louis. We had our first cold snap in mid-November and have been riding the St. Louis temperature see-saw ever since. With the cold weather inevitably comes static and with static, getting shocked. Buddy and I were in Aldi’s not long ago on a particularly cold, dry day and every time I touched one of the metal refrigerator doors to get a gallon of milk, some yogurt, or some shredded cheese, I was getting little shocks and yelping a little (for dramatic affect of course). Buddy thought this was histerical (but didn’t think it was so funny when I shocked him real good on accident later) and seemed very interested so I talked to him a little about static electricity as we rolled through the rest of the store. While he napped later that day, I broke out all the supplies to play with static electricity in our own home.

You will need:

balloons

a plastic comb

pepper

tissue paper (surely this time of year you have some tissue around the house somewhere)

We started off by talking about static electricity again…a review, if you will, of our earlier conversation. I didn’t go into much detail cause, well, he’s two. But we did talk about how static usually happens when two dry things rub together and then it makes some things stick together. Very simple. If you want to get a little more technical with your older child you could check out Science Made Simple.

Then we got down to having a little fun. I showed Buddy how to rub a balloon on his head to build up static and make his hair stand up.

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids

Naturally, he found it more fun to rub the balloon on Mommy’s head and watch my long hair stick out all over but I couldn’t quite get a decent shot of it. So then we wondered what else would stick to our static charged balloon. We tried various toys with no luck, so I broke out the tissue paper. Buddy helped me tear it up into small pieces (another favorite part of the experiment) and we repeated rubbing the balloons on our heads.

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids

He really got a kick out of this! Back to trying to get toys to stick but after a few unsuccessful attempts, we were ready to find something else that would. I poured some pepper into a bowl, rubbed the balloons on our heads again and we watched as the pepper magically jumped from the bowl to the balloon without actually touching the balloon to the pepper!

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids

We had to do this one over and over (it helps to have a very slightly dampened cloth nearby and a sink or trash can to knock pepper into) cause Buddy loved the sound the pepper made when it tapped on the balloon. It was a stitch and a half.

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids

At this point I said that I wondered if we could make static with something other than a balloon and suggested trying the comb. I let Buddy comb my hair as fast as he could (only getting the comb stuck once…oops) and sure enough, the comb picked up our tissue paper too!

Experimenting with Static Electricity for Kids

Buddy is a little young for chart making but if you have an older child you might consider making a poster or a simple chart on a piece of paper to record what kinds of items you could use static to attract with your balloon and comb and which items were not attracted by static.

It’s little things like this that help me remember that even the most overlooked moments in a day, such as getting a little static shock, can be turned into a great opportunity to explore and learn!

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One thought on “Kid Science: Experimenting with Static Electricity

  1. Pingback: Kid Science: Goop | Gaining Mommymentum

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