Science Activity – Give Dad a Beard

Science activity – Give Dad a Beard – (balloon activity)

Material: balloon (lighter colour will work best), black (or dark) permanent marker, cracked black pepper (ground black pepper might work as well), plate, sweater, or blanket, or towel

  1. Blow up balloon and tie closed.
  2. Draw a man’s face on the balloon – keep the drawing of the face close to the bottom of the balloon so the “beard” will work better with the face.
  3. Add pepper to plate.
  4. Ask your child if they can make the pepper stick to the man’s face on the balloon without touching the pepper.  Let them hold the balloon over the plate – nothing should happen.
  5. Then have them rub the chin of the face on the balloon on their hair, or on a wool blanket or sweater or a towel. (This will create static on the balloon which should attract the pepper).
  6. Then they should hold the balloon close to the plate with pepper on it.  The pepper should “jump” onto the balloon where the static was created (and because the child will probably rub the bottom of the balloon on their hair, this is why the face is put lower on the balloon).  You may even hear a clicking sound from the static charge as the pepper jumps to the balloon.
  7. Talk to your child about what happened. Have they ever gotten a little shock when they’ve touched something, like the little shock they can get if they are wearing socks and walk across a carpet then touch something metal.  Tell them that is called “static electricity”.  Static electricity is caused by a build up of what we call an “electrical charge”. Everything contains a mixture of positive and negative charges. But when one surface is rubbed against another, like your socks on the carpet, or the balloon, some of the negative charges are rubbed from the one surface (the sweater or towel) to the other (the balloon), making the one more negatively charged. Then when you move the negatively charged item towards something else it will try to pick up the positive charges from the other item.  So the negatively charged balloon, tries to pick up the positive charges in the pepper and causes the pepper to stick to the balloon.
Posted in

Elaine Hornung