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Our Favourite Ways to Teach Children about Static Electricity

We know it's important to get your children interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) at a young age, as later on in their academic careers, fewer students, especially girls, opt for careers in STEM


Sometimes these topics seem overwhelming, so break them into interesting topics and focus on these for a period of time. Because electricity is something we have all around us, it's a great topic to start with and it's something we use every day! Allowing your children to play with electricity may seem like a risky idea but there's one type that's completely safe. Static electricity is a result of the build-up of electrical charge that occurs from rubbing two objects together. It's a safe way to allow your children to have a hands-on experience with science and possibly spark their interest in STEM subjects.

Before starting an experiment or two, it's time to learn a little more about static electricity and where we experience it.

1. Static electricity is all about the charge of an object and how these charges interact with each other

2. It's called static electricity because the charge stays in the same place - making it static

3. The electrons that spin around the nucleus of an atom are negatively charged. When two objects rub against each other, the electrons move from one object to the other

4. Static electricity is the build-up of charge on the surface of an object

5. If the objects have the same charge, they will repel, if they have opposite charges, they will attract, and if one object is charged and the other isn't, they will attract. You may have noticed that sometimes, when you brush your hair, it puffs out. This is because your hairbrush has transferred the same charge onto each strand of hair, so the hairs repel each other

6. Friction between two objects causes this attraction or repulsion, such as when you slide down a slide or rub your feet on the carpet

7. Usually, static electricity is harmless. Does your hair ever stick to the back of your chair or do you ever feel a zap when you touch someone? This is because of static electricity

8. Lightning is the result of too much static electricity in the sky. This is an example of when static electricity can be dangerous

9. The zap you feel when you touch someone and lightning striking the ground are both examples of the electric charge discharging onto another object

10. Static electricity isn't always a nuisance. For example, it's used for ink printers and spray paint, to allow the ink and paint to stick to the paper

Book Experiment

You will need:

• sheet of glass

• plastic bag with zipper lock

• 2 thick books

• small pieces of paper

• plastic foam

• science journal

• metal pie pan

• scissors, notebook paper

This experiment allows children to figure out for themselves how static electricity works and when recording the results, they'll feel like a real scientist. Let them come up with a hypothesis at the beginning of the experiment and see if they were correct at the end. Make sure there's adult supervision when using glass. 

Balloon Hair

You will need:

• balloon

• head of hair

This is the easiest static electricity experiment out there! If they haven't already done this at parties, children will be amazed. Rub a balloon on your kid's head or let them do it themselves and see their hair stand up on end.

Floating bag

You will need:

• cotton towel

• plastic produce bag

• scissors

• balloon

Teach your children how science can seem like magic with this floating plastic bag experiment. This experiment requires hardly any materials and is easy to do at any age. Manoeuvre the plastic bag above your head and your children will feel just like Harry Potter!

Magic Wand

You will need:

• Aluminium can/plastic bag

• PVC pipe

• Cloth

Simply rub the cloth over the PVC pipe, hover the pipe over the can and watch as the pipe controls the can's movement. Have races with friends and family to see how quickly you can move your can across the floor.



You will need:

• A balloon

• A carpet/towel/your hair

• A source of water

This experiment really pushes the boundaries of reality. Rub a balloon against something to charge it and find a light stream of water e.g from the sink. Bring the balloon closer to the water source and watch as the stream of water changes direction. Ask your children whether they think the balloon is attracting or repelling the water, based on the direction it moves in.

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