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Electricity for Kids: How to Roll a Can Using Only a Balloon

by Hickerson Brothers on January 20, 2017

electricity for kids

Demonstrating Protons & Electrons

Whether your child is well into elementary school or not yet in kindergarten, it’s never too early to talk about electricity. We know how daunting the topic of electricity may be, especially if you’re the one having to explain it; however, because so much of the world requires it, it’s important to at least understand some basics.

In our first ever edition of “Electricity for Kids,” we’re going to dig into the difference between protons and electrons, and then demonstrate, using a balloon and a can, how a negative or positive charge can change an outcome. You may be wondering: Will this be fun? Of course it will! And we’re not just saying that because electricity is our specialty. There are numerous experiments and demonstrations in which you and your child can conduct together – and they really are quite fascinating.  As a parent, you might even learn something along the way too! is a great resource for both parents and their children to use. This website houses hundreds of experiments and demonstrations under the category “Science Snacks” that you can do at home; some require non-expensive devices you will need to purchase, however, many of them require only common household objects. The Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory in San Fransisco, CA, so if you ever find yourself in their neck of the woods, we recommend planning a visit!

Today’s demonstration focuses on protons and electrons. To understand how electricity works, one must first grasp the basic concepts; consider these terms building blocks.

Proton: a positively charged particle

Electron: a negatively charged particle

What You Will Need:

  • Empty soda can
  • One balloon
  • Your hair (The longer the better)
  • A flat surface

Step 1:

Inflate the balloon and tie it off.

Step 2:

Clear your flat surface of any obstructions. Place the can on its side onto the surface. Make sure it’s not moving.

Step 3:

Rub the balloon back and forth on your hair, really fast.

Step 4:

Your can in place on its side, hold the balloon roughly an inch away from it.

Step 5:

Slowly move the balloon away from the can. As you do so, the can should start to roll towards the balloon.

* Point out that this is occurring without you touching it.

The Takeaway

  • The aluminum can has a neutral charge. A neutral charge occurs when there are equal amounts of protons and electrons.
  • Negative charges repel other negative charges. Because of this, when you hold the neutrally charged can near the negatively charged  balloon, the can loses some of its electrons, meaning there are now more protons. This area of the can has now assumed a positive charge.
  • Opposites attract. The negatively charged portion of the balloon attracts the positively charged portion of the can. In this case, the balloon is pulled toward the can.

Practical Application

The above demonstration also explains why clothes stick together in the dryer!

Stay tuned for more Electricity for Kids demonstrations and experiments!

Hickerson Electrical is your source for all home electrical services. We’re ready and willing to deliver top-quality service to your home at a moment’s notice. So call today at (703) 594-3913.

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