Category: Physics

Fun physics ideas for kids

Finding North: a fun hiking game for kids

Fun game to learn how to find north using your senses, the sun, and a compass!

Finding North - Hiking Science Game for kids

We love hiking in our family (or bush-walking as we tend to call it here in Australia). It’s such a fun way to combine our love of nature, exercise and family-time!

Recently Bumble Bee gave Jewel a compass for her 9th birthday, so we decided to bring it along on our next hike to try it out – and we invented a game called Finding North.

 

Suitable for

This is a fun outdoor activity for younger or middle primary / elementary school aged kids. Jewel was 9 and Bumble Bee was 6.5 years old here.

Read More Finding North: a fun hiking game for kids

Book Review of Halley Harper; Science Girl Extraordinare: Summer Set In Motion

Halley Harper Science Girl Extraordinaire; Summer Set In Motion book review

Product Reviewed: Halley Harper; Science Girl Extraordinare: Summer Set In Motion, by Tracy Borgmeyer.

Age Range: 7-10 year olds

Star Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

The Good: Chapter book featuring an awesome 9 year old science-loving girl protagonist, whilst introducing scientific concepts in a fun age-appropriate way.

The Bad: Predictable storyline. Lack of diversity among the characters. Girls who love science are portrayed as weird and unusual (but still cool).

The Verdict: This is a fun, easy to read, early chapter book that encourages a love of science, and in particular, has a science-loving female main character young girls can relate to. Thumbs up!

Halley Harper Science Girl Extraordinaire; Summer Set In Motion - book review

One of the benefits of having a science-for-girls themed blog is that it tends to put you in touch with people who share a similar passion. That’s how I “met” Tracy Borgmeyer, a fellow blogger at She Loves Science, who is on a mission to “inspire you to bring a love of science to your daughters.” Sound familiar?

Tracy recently wrote a guest post for this blog, Go Science Kids, on how to make a cool glow in the dark Big Dipper Constellation Pillow – thanks Tracy!

Tracy also mentioned she’d recently written the first chapter book in a new series, aimed at 8+ year old science-loving girls. Knowing that my eldest daughter is a keen science girl herself, Tracy offered to send a (no obligation) signed copy for my daughter to read. Umm, thank you!

It took me a couple of days before I could have a good look at it though, because my daughter Jewel wouldn’t put it down! I guess that’s a good sign, right?

When I did manage to wrangle it off her, I could see why Jewel was hooked. Science and mystery and intrigue – oh my! So it’s my delight to share our review of this new chapter book, the first in an exciting new series…

Read More Book Review of Halley Harper; Science Girl Extraordinare: Summer Set In Motion

DIY Magnetic Marble Run for the Fridge Door

How to make a magnetic marble run for your refrigerator door. Fun STEM (or STEAM) activity for kids!

make a magnetic marble run for your fridge door contains affiliate links* to similar products

Suitable for

You can adapt this activity to suit preschoolers, kindergarteners or young school-aged kids. My daughters Jewel and Bumble Bee were 6 and 4 years old when we first made this.

We made this fridge-door marble run ages ago, but I’m only just getting a chance to share it now, because, you know, kids and life and stuff…

It was lots of fun, and super simple to make.

How to make a Fridge-Door Marble Run

We used:

Fridge door marble run!

Of course, you could make this with plain cardboard rolls, but decorating them with washi tape is fun, and much prettier!

I used a hot glue gun to stick magnets onto the side of our tubes (mainly because the results are quick, and I’m impatient!). You could also use regular PVA craft glue, and just wait overnight for it to dry. If you use self-adhesive magnets, you may have to add extra glue between the cardboard tube and the magnet so they stick ‘properly’.

Stronger magnets are best, especially if you plan to use heavier balls, like marbles or steel balls, as they have more force behind them. If you’re only planning on using pompoms, then you could get away with weaker magnets (like the promotional ones you sometimes get in your letter box).

Decorate toilet paper rolls with washi tape & stick on magnets to create a magnetic marble run for the fridge door.

My daughters (Bumble Bee, 4.5 years old and Jewel, almost 7 years old) helped decorate a few of our cardboard tubes, and I finished the rest. Stripes are easy and look great!

Testing out the marble run

We created some shape variations by cutting an angle in the end of some of the cylinders, or by cutting a small section out of the side of another. (These variations are great to have later, when the kids are trying out different marble run designs.)

Creating magnetic marble run piecesOnce you’re done creating and decorating your tubes, pop them on the fridge, and wait for the kids to come and play! (I *might* have played with them a wee bit too. It’s fun!)

Magnetic marble run for your fridge door - fun science for kids

Make a magnetic marble run

Some questions to ponder:

  • How many zig zags can you incorporate into your design?
  • Use a stopwatch to time your marble run. Can you modify your track to make it quicker? Slower?
  • Test your marble run using a heavier smooth ball (eg a marble) vs a lighter rough ball (eg a pom pom). Do you need to modify your design to suit the ball type? How does the type of ball affect the speed?
  • How far does your ball roll when it comes out of the end of marble run? Can you modify your design to get the ball to land in a particular spot?

Make a colourful DIY magnetic marble run

Fun Science

There’s a number of factors that influence your marble run design.

The first is gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls objects downwards (towards the centre of the earth). It’s what causes the marble to roll downwards.

The second is energy (and conservation of energy). The faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, changing their motion. When a ball hits a zigzag in the marble run, the energy is transferred from the ball to the marble run wall, and then back into the ball, causing the ball to change direction.

The third is force (and the relationship between energy and force). The faster and heavier an object, the more force it will have. Heavier balls will require a slower track (or stronger magnets), else the force of the ball will push the track out.

The fourth is friction. Friction occurs when two objects rub against each other (slowing movement and creating heat in the process). The texture of the ball and/or the track will affect the friction.

Make a DIY magnetic marble run for the fridge using toilet paper rolls and washi tape!

Science isn’t the only subject that can be introduced here. You could easily turn this into a playful STEM or STEAM (STEM + art) activity:

  • Science – see above! Marble runs are a classic physics activity covering gravity, energy, force and friction.
  • Technology – You could use a digital stop watch to time the marble run.
  • Engineering – taking in the various forces into account, testing and making design modifications are all classic engineering activities.
  • Math – estimating, measuring and comparing times is all great maths practice. Likewise, estimating, measuring and comparing how far the marble will roll. You could record results in a table.
  • + Art – decorating your tubes! We used washi tape, but you could also paint the cardboard tubes or draw patterns using markers…

Make a DIY magnetic marble run - for your fridge door!

For more physics fun, check out our Physics Experiments for Kids archives, including:

Make a magnetic marble run for the fridge door - STEAM activity for kids

You might also like to follow our Go Science Kids and Fun Science for Kids boards on Pinterest.

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox. We’d love to have you join us!

* This post contains affiliate link(s) to similar products used. An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little blog afloat. Thank you so much for your support.

C is for Catapult!

How to make (and test) DIY craft stick catapults! Fun catapult STEM project for kids, that combines physics, engineering and math with play.

Catapult STEM - how to make DIY craft stick catapults

Making catapults is one of those classic STEM activities that are so much fun.

Y’all know what a STEM activity is, right? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and a great STEM activity is one that incorporates two or more of these pillar subjects, in an open-ended, lets-find-out, hands-on kinda way.

Making catapults involves three of the four pillar STEM subjects – there’s the whole projectile, forces, physics thing (Science = tick!), creating a machine and evaluating different designs (Engineering = tick!) and measuring the height and distance of your projectiles (Maths = tick!).

So I’m pleased to present this as the C is for Catapult submission in this year’s A-Z of STEM Activities for Kids series that Little Bins for Little Hands is running. (We also submitted a Why STEM for Girls is So Important post to that series too – because that’s something that we tend to be a bit passionate about around here!)

Anyway, I digress.

We’ve made easy upcycled catapults before (which were so much fun!). But this time, I thought we’d try making classic craft stick catapults – mostly because I’ve been wanting to make some for ages and ages and ages.

Launching a DIY craft stick catapult
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Christmas STEAM: Magnetic Jingle Bell Tree

Can you add jingle bells to a paper plate  Christmas tree, without using glue? Fun physics challenge for kids.

Magnetic jingle bell tree - Christmas science fun for kids

Suitable for

I’d suggest this activity for preschoolers or kindergarteners. Bumble Bee was 4 years old when we did this.

Don’t you just love it when one activity spins into another? That’s what happened with our jingle bell tree.

It all started while we were making our Christmas tree magnet maze. My first thought was that we could use a metal jingle bell to trace the magnet maze instead of a metallic ball. Because, you know, jingle bells make everything more awesome.

Meanwhile Bumble Bee had started drawing her own paper plate Christmas tree, and was really focused on colouring it in neatly. (Personally I don’t mind if she colours outside the lines, but I was impressed by her self-motivated focus and effort – traits I like to encourage.)

Drawing a Christmas Tree

With all that neat colouring, she’d neglected to leave any white space for baubles, and I knew if she tried to draw any later, they would appear dull and dark because of the yellow marker underneath. I was concerned she’d feel disappointed, especially considering how hard she’d tried, so I privately brainstormed alternatives. Perhaps she could draw ornaments on another piece of paper, cut them out and glue them on?

And then I thought, “Woah – wouldn’t these metal jingle bells look great as ‘hanging’ ornaments!”

So, when she’d finished colouring, I asked “What do you think about decorating your tree with jingle bells for baubles? Can you think of a way you could make them stick, without using glue?”

Apparently she could. 🙂Adding bells to the tree
 

Magnetic Jingle Bell Tree

Similar to our magnet mazes, this activity encourages kids to think about the physics of magnetic force, and in particular, of magnetic force through an object.

Here’s how Bumble Bee’s jingle bell tree turned out!

Christmas magnet science for kids - make a jingle bell tree

And here’s the back, revealing all her magnet secrets!

Magnetic force holding the bells onto the christmas tree

Bumble Bee used some of our Geomag magnetic rods (aff link*). But other similar large magnets would also work as well.

Related: You can see our previous reviews of Geomag sets here and here.

Please note…

I recommend using a large-sized magnet. The ones we used here are a few inches long, and not easily swallowed. Smaller magnets that could potentially be swallowed are particularly dangerous if swallowed concurrently with other magnets, or items attracted to magnets (like jingle bells), as they could attract each other inside the gut and cause serious injuries. You know your child. Use your best judgement, and please supervise at all times.

Magnetic force holding the bells onto the christmas tree

Fun Science

Gravity is an invisible force. It pulls objects towards the earth. You can see the affect it has on objects. Normally if you place a little jingle bell on a paper plate, and tip the paper plate up, the bell will roll off the side of the plate and onto the floor.

A magnet is something that produces another invisible force, called magnetic force. You can see the push or pull affect it has on objects. If you bring a metal object, like a bell, near a magnet, the magnetic force attracts the bell and makes it move towards the magnet.

Magnetic force works through some objects, like paper plates. If you have a bell on a paper plate, and a magnet on the other side, and you tip the paper plate up, the bell has two forces working on it: gravity, which is trying to make the bell fall to the floor, and magnetic force, which is trying to attract the bell to the magnet. If the magnetic force is greater than the gravitational force, the bell won’t fall.

Because of the artistic element of kids being able to design and decorate their Christmas tree any way they like, I’m going to call this a STEAM (or STEM + Art) activity. You can read more about STEAM activities here.

Check out our physics page for more physics fun, including:

We also have lots more Christmas science ideas, including:

If you’re on Pinterest, check out our Christmas Science Projects for Kids board.

While you’re there, you might also like to follow our main Go Science Kids board, and our Fun Science for Kids and STEM for Girls boards too. We’re always pinning awesome science stuff!

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox. We’d love to have you join us!

* This post contains affiliate link(s). An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you for your support. Please note: I was not obligated to write this post or mention any particular product. All opinions are my, or my kids’ own.

Make a Christmas tree magnet maze game

Christmas STEAM activity:  design your own Christmas tree magnet maze game! Fun way for kids to learn about physics and magnetism through play.

Make a Christmas tree magnet game - fun science for kids

Remember the magnet maze game we made a little while ago? This Christmas tree magnet maze game is essentially the same thing, but with a fun Christmas spin!

My kids really enjoy repeating an activity with minor variations. It gives us a chance to play around with a concept, and perhaps think a little deeper about it than we may have the first time round.

This Christmas tree magnet maze activity explores the physics of magnetic force through an object, and how we could use this force to move a ball along a particular path.

Design a Christmas tree magnet maze - Christmas STEAM activity for kids

The artistic element of kids being able to design and decorating their Christmas tree any way they like, helps this activity cross the curriculum to incorporate both science & art. Incorporating art into STEM subjects is a great way for kids to use both sides of the brain, and encourages creative kids to enjoy and engage with STEM subjects.

Related: Click here to read more about integrating STEM + Art to make STEAM.

Suitable for

I’d suggest this activity for preschoolers or kindergarteners. Bumble Bee was 4 years old when we did this activity.

Please note…

Only try this activity if your child no longer puts things in their mouth, as the small balls are a choking hazard.

Either way, I recommend using a large-sized magnet. The ones we used here are a few inches long, and not easily swallowed. Smaller magnets that could potentially be swallowed are particularly dangerous if swallowed concurrently with other magnets, or items attracted to magnets, as they can attract each other inside the gut and cause all sorts of nasty problems.

You know your child. Use your best judgement, and please supervise at all times.

How to make  A Christmas Tree Magnet Maze Game

You’ll need:

  • paper plates (or thin cardboard)
  • markers
  • a large magnet
  • small steel ball (or other steel object)

We used Stix markers and Geomag magnetic rods and steel balls (affiliate links*) as that’s what we have at home. But other similar products would also work as well.

Related: You can see our previous reviews of Geomag sets here and here.

What to do:

  1. Design and decorate your Christmas tree!
  2. Put a steel ball on the maze side of the paper plate, and the magnet on the other.
  3. Move the magnet underneath. Magnetic force will make the ball move too!

Decorating a Christmas tree

I drew a Christmas tree outline onto a paper plate, to give Bumble Bee an idea of what she could do. I encouraged her to draw her own. But, rightly or wrongly, Bumble Bee decided she didn’t want to draw her own, and instead adopted the tree outline that I’d drawn as hers. (I didn’t insist, as then I would have had a battle on my hands!) She did happily decorate ‘her’ tree though, with lots of purple baubles!

Once her decorations were complete, she carefully placed the ball on the top side of the plate, whilst holding the magnet underneath, until the ball was ‘caught’ in the magnet’s magnetic field and stopped rolling around.

Christmas magnet play for kids

She then held the plate in one hand, and moved the magnet underneath to make the ball move along the Christmas tree outline.

DIY Christmas tree magnet maze STEAM activity for kids

It’s actually quite tricky for young kids to move the ball along a set path, as it requiring kids to use their sense of proprioception (or awareness of their body in space), which is one of our seven senses.

(Yes, we have seven senses! Read briefly about them here.)

In order to move the ball around the maze, kids need to use their sense of proprioception to judge where to move their hand, and how much force to use to push the ball along the path, without actually seeing their hand moving, only the ball.

Don’t be surprised if it takes some children a few tries before they get the hang of it.

Christmas tree magnet maze

Fun Science

Gravity is a force. It pulls objects towards the earth. It’s an invisible force, but you can see the affect it has on objects. Normally if you have a metal ball on a paper plate, and you tip the paper plate up, the ball will roll off the side of the plate and onto the floor.

A magnet is something that produces another force, called magnetic force. This magnetic force is also invisible, but you can see the affect it has on objects. If you bring a metal ball near a magnet, the magnetic force will attract the ball and make it move towards the magnet. Magnetic force works through some objects, like paper plates. If you have a metal ball on a paper plate, and a magnet on the other side, and you tip the paper plate up, the ball has two forces working on it: gravity, which is trying to make the ball fall to the floor, and magnetic force, which is trying to attract the ball to the magnet. If your magnet is strong enough, magnetic force will win.

Extension Idea: Older kids might be able to use IT to design their own Christmas Tree mazes, which they could then print out and glue onto a paper plate or cardboard.  This would be a great way to incorporate technology into this activity, another of the STEM pillar subjects.

For more physics fun, you might like:

We also have lots more Christmas science ideas, including:

If you’re on Pinterest, check out our Christmas Science Projects for Kids board.

While you’re there, you might also like to follow our main Go Science Kids board, and our Fun Science for Kids and STEM for Girls boards too. We’re always pinning awesome science stuff!

And, of course, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, to receive all our latest activities straight in your Inbox. We’d love to have you join us!

* This post contains affiliate link(s). An affiliate link means I may earn a referral fee or commission if you make a purchase through my link, without any extra cost to you. It helps to keep this little project afloat. Thank you so much for your support. I was not obligated to write this post or mention any particular product. All opinions are my, or my kids’ own.