Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

Three Fun Static Electricity Experiments to Do at Home

Experimenting with static electricity is a great way to introduce young kids to science and spark their curiosity to learn more. Here are three quick, hands-on experiments you can try at home. Each experiment takes only a few minutes and uses materials you probably already have at home.

What You’ll Need:

  • Balloons
  • Salt and pepper
  • Small bowl or plate
  • Plastic spoon
  • Empty aluminum cans
  • Your own head of hair! (to generate a static charge)

What You’ll Do:

Experiment #1: Bend Water

  • Blow up a balloon and tie the end. Rub the balloon on your head until your hair sticks up to create a static charge.
  • Turn on the kitchen faucet to create a stream of water about the same thickness as a pencil.
  • Slowly bring the charged balloon up to the stream without touching it. The stream of water will bend as it flows around the balloon.

Experiment #2: Separate Pepper from Salt

  • In a small bowl, mix a good amount of salt and pepper together.
  • Rub a balloon on your head until your hair sticks up to create a static charge.
  • Slowly move the charged balloon over the salt and pepper mixture in the bowl. As the balloon gets closer to the mixture, the pepper will fly upward toward the balloon, separating from the salt.

Experiment #3: Can Races

  • Gather a few empty (and clean) aluminum cans.
  • Arrange the cans in a line on a hard, smooth floor.
  • Rub a balloon on your head to create a static charge.
  • Place the balloon behind each can to see it roll away by itself.
  • Set up a can race to see who can move their can the fastest using the power of static electricity.

How does the science work? Objects can become either positively or negatively charged through friction. In these experiments, the friction is created by rubbing a balloon on your head. Charged objects exert forces on each other that either attract or repulse.

What Kids Learn

How to Support the Play

  • Remember: There is often more than one “right way” of doing things.
  • If your kid asks for help, try and guide them without taking over. Nudge them along with suggestions framed as questions. “What would happen if…?”
  • Ask questions about why your child thinks the static electricity is affecting the water, pepper and cans.

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