Having fun while learning is something that can easily be incorporated into your children’s education, helping them to further develop.
For any young budding scientist, there are a huge amount of fun projects that can be carried out both in the classroom and at home.
Here we outline 5 exciting electric circuit projects for kids that can be done both at home or in a classroom environment. Materials used can be purchased online should you be doing these experiments at home.
Before we begin, it is important to know what an electric circuit is. A circuit is a path that electricity travels along from one spot to another, hence the name electric circuit. There are normally four main parts in an electric circuit, these are:
- The cell – this is the power source
- The conductors – this is what the electricity travels along and is directed through
- Resistor or Load – this is the device that is going to be powered by the circuit
- The switch – this allows the flow of electricity around the circuit and can stop or start it
The below five projects are suitable for children of different levels, going in order from simple to more difficult. Be sure to ask if they can identify the four main parts in an electric circuit after they complete their project.
Project 1: Squishy Circuits
What You Nill Need
- 1 battery holder – to hold 4 AA batteries, with a switch
- 4 AA Batteries
- LED Light Bulb – 5mm or 10mm
- Conductive Dough (Play-Doh)
- Insulating Dough (Modelling Clay)
- Take some conductive dough and mold it into two rolls. Place the rolls parallel on a flat surface approximately 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Connect the red, positive, wire from the battery pack to one roll and the black, negative, wire from the battery pack to the other roll.
- Take 1 LED light bulb and insert the long prong or leg, which is positive, and stick it into the roll that the red wire is connected to. Repeat by placing the short prong, which is negative, and stick it into the roll that the black wire is connected to.
- You have now created a successful circuit and your LED light bulb should illuminate.
Optional Additional Step
To prevent a short circuit, take a piece of insulating dough and mold it into a roll. Place this roll between the two rolls of conductive dough. This will stop a short circuit from happening.
To show what a short circuit is, remove the insulating dough and place the two rolls of conductive dough directly beside each other, they should be touching.
The LED will no longer be lit up. This is a sign of a short circuit as the electricity flows through the dough rather than the wires. By separating the rolls, and replacing the insulating dough your LED bulb should light up again.
Project 2: Potato Light Bulb
What You Need
- 3-inch copper nail
- 3-inch zinc nail
- 2 6-inch strips of thin electrical wire
- 1-Volt LED Light Bulb
- Put the copper and zinc nails into the potato one inch apart.
- Push the nails into a depth of 1 ½ inches.
- Remove ½ inch of plastic covering from both 6-inch strips of electrical wire and wrap the exposed wire around the top of each nail, one wire per nail.
- Put the opposite ends of the wires onto the two terminals on the 1-Volt LED Light Bulb.
- Your bulb should light up instantly. The light will be dim rather than a bright light.
Tip: To increase the voltage, add a second potato to the circuit by altering the above steps. Rather than having both the copper and zinc nail in one potato, put one of each in either potato.
Connect the two potatoes by wrapping a third wire around the top end of the copper nail and extending it over and wrapping it around the top of the zinc nail.
As above, place the opposite ends of the wires connected to the copper and zinc nails to the terminals on the LED Bulb and your LED Bulb should light up brighter.
Project 3: Light Up Firefly
What You Need
- Conductive Tape
- 3v Button Battery
- LED Light Bulb
- Black Paper
- Yellow Paper
- Cut one large oval from the yellow paper. This will be the abdomen of the firefly.
- Cut one large oval from the black paper then cut this oval in half. These will be used to make the wings.
- Cut a smaller circle from the black paper. This will be the head.
- Glue all of these pieces together to form the firefly, see image above.
- Push an LED light bulb through the abdomen, the bulb should be visible from the winged side of the firefly.
- Flatten the wire prongs on the LED light so they lay flat against the underside of the paper.
- The long prong is positive and the shorter prong is negative. Using the conductive tape create two paths, one from each prong. The paths should grow closer and overlap at the bottom in a V-like shape.
- Place the battery positive side down on top of the path leading from the positive prong. Tape the path from the negative prong to the top of the battery. Do not let the two paths touch each other.
- When your battery is correctly attached your firefly should light up.
Project 4: Salty Circuits
What You Need
- Battery pack with AA batteries
- 2 LED bulbs
- 2 sheets of thick paper
- 2 Paper clips
- Electrical tape
- One shallow tray
- Watercolors or food coloring
- Paintbrushes or pipettes
- Fold both sheets of paper in half and place a paper clip at the bottom of each sheet.
- Place the folded sheets of paper beside the other in a tray.
- Using glue and a paintbrush, draw a line from the paper clip up, along the paper to the paper’s edge. See the picture above for guidance.
- Sprinkle a generous layer of salt on the glue. Lift the paper and shake off the excess salt. Tilt the tray to move the excess salt to the side.
- Wrap the exposed red wire from the battery pack tightly around one of the paper clips and secure it with electrical tape.
- Repeat the above step with the black wire and the second paper clip.
- Add color to the salty glue lines using paint or food coloring. Drop the color onto the end of the glue line and watch as it runs along the salt and glue drawing. You do not need to paint color along each line.
- Take an LED light bulb and bend the legs outwards. Touch one leg to the salty glue line from the positive side and the other to the negative side.
- Your bulb should instantly light up.
Project 5: Simple Circuit Game
What You Will Need
- Three strips of wire in varying lengths
- Electrical tape
- 9-Volt battery
- LED light bulb
- Wire stripper tool
- Take the first strip of wire and strip the majority to make it exposed. Bend the exposed piece in a zig-zag pattern. Take the covered end of the wire and connect it to the positive terminal on the battery, securely attach using electrical tape.
- Take the second strip of wire and expose it a few inches from the end. Wrap the exposed wire to form a loop. Take the covered end of wire and connect it to the longer, positive, prong on the LED light bulb.
- Taking a third strip of wire, connect one end to the negative terminal on the battery and one end to the shorter, negative, prong on the LED light bulb. Connect securely using electrical tape.
- Guide the loop around the bent wires without touching.
- If you touch the wire, the LED bulb will light as the circuit is complete and you will need to restart the game. Try to get to the end of the wire without the LED bulb lighting up.
These projects are sure to have your child smiling as they learn about electric circuits. Children should carry out these projects under adult supervision to avoid any mistakes or accidents.
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