How to Explain Electricity to a Kid
- How to Explain Electricity to a Kid | Mr. Electric
Children are endlessly curious about the world around them. If you’re a parent – or anyone who spends time with kids, for that matter – you’re bound to be asked about electricity sooner or later. Knowing how to explain electricity to a kid is an essential skill to have in your parenting tool box. It may even help your kids realize how brilliant you are! (At least until they become teenagers, of course.)
Use these tips to get started:
- Adapt the explanation to the child’s age. Keep it short and simple for preschoolers. For older kids, you can provide a more detailed, complex response like the one below.
- Explain to children that electricity can be dangerous. Remind them to stay away from exposed wires or downed power lines, and to avoid using electrical devices near water, including tubs, sinks, puddles or toilets.
- Use a hands-on approach by conducting the simple electricity experiments for kids, listed below.
What is Electricity?
If you don’t really understand how electricity works, you won’t know how to explain electricity to a kid! Here’s a simple way to sum it up (Edit as needed!):
Electricity is something that has always been around, but we didn’t really know how to harness its power until the 1800s. Electricity is considered “secondary energy” because other sources of potential energy like wood or gas are needed to produce it.
There are two basic forms of electricity: current electricity and static electricity.
- Current electricity (alternating current) is the energy that flows through wires in our homes and powers our lights, televisions, computers, and appliances. Batteries also supply direct current electricity. Electrical current flows continuously as long as it has an uninterrupted circuit to travel through. Light switches and circuit breakers work by interrupting the flow of electricity.
- Static electricity occurs naturally when certain objects rub together and create friction. Lightning is an example of static electricity created when ice and water particles in storm clouds collide, creating big electrical charges (bolts) that travel to the ground below or to nearby clouds. Another example is when you shuffle your feet across the carpet, then get a shock when you touch something or someone.
How Is Electricity Generated?
Everything in the universe – the sun, clouds, grass, dirt, toys, clothes, rocks, and even people – is composed of atoms, tiny particles that contain protons, neutrons, and electrons. The protons and neutrons are inside the atom’s nucleus (center) and the electrons orbit the nucleus. The electrons, which have a negative charge, don’t float away under normal circumstances. They stay in orbit because the protons in the nucleus have a positive charge, which keeps the electrons close. In this state, the atom is neutral (doesn’t have a charge) because the number of protons is equal to the number of electrons. When outside forces (friction or chemical reactions, for example) upset the balance, the atoms may lose or gain an electron. It’s the movement of these lost electrons that produces electricity.
Power plants use various fuels– gas, coal, steam, or wind, for example – to generate electricity. Basically, they use chemical reactions, mechanical force, or kinetic (movement) energy to alter atoms. For example, wind farms or water from a power dam causes huge wheels in turbines to rapidly spin, disturbing the electrons, producing electricity.
The generated current travels through wires into large transformers. The transformers increase voltage, allowing the power to travel far away. The current continues through high-voltage power lines that extend across the country. Before electricity comes to your home or business, it travels to a substation, which converts the voltage from high to low. From there, it goes through a system of smaller power lines and another transformer to lower the voltage even more. Finally, the electricity is sent to homes and businesses, where, with the push of a button or flip of a switch, it powers the devices of modern life!
Static Electricity Experiments for Kids
To help a child understand the properties of static electricity, rub a balloon on your hair or a wool blanket or sweater, and watch how it sticks to the wall for a few moments. Explain that this is an example of negatively and positively charged atoms reacting to each other.
To further illustrate this concept, try this simple static electricity experiment:
- Mix an equal part table salt and black pepper in a shallow dish.
- Have your child use a fine-tooth plastic comb to comb through his/her hair until static builds up.
- Keeping the comb in the same hand, have your child quickly hold the comb over the dish, without touching the salt and pepper mixture.
- Watch as the comb, which is now statically charged, attracts the pepper, lifting flakes from the dish. (This works best when humidity levels are low.)
How to Make a Circuit for Kids
Here’s how to build a simple circuit with your child to demonstrate how electricity flows:
- Assemble the following items: a light bulb, a battery (be sure to use the right voltage for the bulb,) two 6-inch sections of wire, electrical tape, and a knife.
- Use the knife to strip ½ inch of each end of both sections of wire.
- Tape one end of one wire to the shiny silver side of the bulb base and tape the other end of the same wire to the negative pole (-) of the battery.
- Tape one end of the second wire to the positive pole (+) of the battery. When your child touches the other end of the second wire to the bottom of the light bulb, the circuit is complete, and the bulb should light up.
Upgrading Electrical Service to Keep Your Family Safe
Outdated electrical fixtures, wiring, and other components may be putting your home – and your kids – at risk. We care about your family’s safety! If you have questions or concerns regarding your home’s electrical system, make an appointment with your local Mr. Electric online. Or, you can call us any time at (844) 866-1367. From installing childproof outlets to conducting comprehensive electrical inspections, we are ready to help!
Now that your kids think you are a genius, it may be easier to get them to help out around the house! Check out these motivating tips from Molly Maid!
16 Fun Electricity Experiments and Activities For Kids
Electricity is all around us, so we tend to take it for granted. It’s a fascinating subject for kids, though, so they’ll love these electricity experiments and activities. You may need to invest in a few simple supplies for some of these activities, but you’ll be able to reuse them year after year. The hands-on experience kids get makes the extra effort worthwhile.
Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. Thank you for your support!
1. Start with an anchor chart
Static electricity is most kids’ intro to this concept, and it leads nicely into electrical energy and circuitry. These colorful anchor charts help you teach both.
Learn more: What I Have Learned Teaching/Miller’s Science Space
2. Bend water with static electricity
Most static electricity experiments are quick and easy enough for anyone to try at home. This is a great example: charge a comb by rubbing it against your head, then use it to “bend” a stream of water from a faucet.
Learn more: Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls
3. Separate salt and pepper with a “magic” spoon
This static electricity experiment works because pepper is lighter than salt, which makes it quicker to jump to the electrically charged plastic spoon. So cool!
Learn more: Science Kiddo
4. Move a bubble using a balloon
Balloons are a fun way to teach about static electricity. Combine them with bubbles for a hands-on activity students will really love!
Learn more: Create Play Travel
5. Flap a butterfly’s wings
Speaking of balloons, try using them to help a butterfly flap its tissue paper wings. Little ones’ faces light up when they see the butterfly come to life.
Learn more: I Heart Crafty Things
6. Make jumping goo with static electricity
Kick your static electricity experiments up a notch by mixing a batch of cornstarch “goo,” then making it “jump” towards a balloon. Amazing!
Learn more: Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
7. Assemble circuits from play dough
When you’re ready to explore electrical energy, start with play dough circuits. You’ll need a battery box and mini LED bulbs, both of which are inexpensive and available on Amazon. Mix up your own batches of insulating and conducting play dough using the info at the link.
Learn more: Science Sparks
Construct a classic potato clock
Try a variety of fruits and vegetables (lemons are another popular choice) for these classic electricity experiments. Here’s the clock kit you’ll need.
Learn more: Kidz World
9. Find out if water conducts electricity
We’re always telling kids to get out of the water at the first sign of a lightning storm, so use this demo to help them understand why. You’ll need alligator clip wires, mini LED bulbs, and button cell batteries.
Learn more: Rookie Parenting
10. Build a battery from pennies
Light up a bulb without plugging something in or using a battery! Use alligator clip wires, mini LED bulbs, pennies, and aluminum foil to generate electricity instead.
Learn more: 123Homeschool4Me
11. Whip up wizard wands
Lumos! If your kids are fascinated by Harry Potter and the world of magic, they’ll love this electricity project that turns ordinary sticks into light-up wands! Learn how it’s done at the link.
Learn more: Babble Dabble Do
12. Play a DIY steady hand game
Electricity experiments like this one are perfect for exploring the idea of open and closed circuits. Plus, kids will have so much fun playing with them!
Learn more: Left Brain Craft Brain
13. Copper plate coins using electricity
We all know electricity lights up a room, and powers phones, computers, and even cars. But what else can it do? This electroplating experiment is a real jaw-dropper.
Learn more: KiwiCo Corner
14. Create an index card flashlight
This DIY flashlight really turns on and off! It only takes index cards, aluminum foil, mini LED bulbs, and button cell batteries.
Learn more: Mystery Science
15. Twirl some homopolar dancers
These sweet little twirling dancers are a fantastic demonstration of a homopolar motor. In addition to basic AA batteries, you’ll need neodymium magnets and copper wire.
Learn more: Babble Dabble Do
16. Engineer an electromagnet
Turn an ordinary nail into a magnet with battery and wire. That’s the magic of electromagnets!
Learn more: Steve Spangler Science
Love these electricity experiments and activities? Check out 50 Easy Science Experiments You Can Do With Stuff You Already Have.
Plus, Turn Muggles Into Wizards With Harry Potter Science Experiments.
Electrical safety in your home for children
As your child grows, they need to be taught the basics of electrical safety. This is important not only for the protection of electrical appliances, but also for the life of your children. You should not be afraid of electricity, but you need to understand all the rules for working with electricity in order to be safe.
Accidents most often happen exactly when we least expect it. Unfortunately, some accidents have dire consequences. Here are a few things you can teach your child today to help prevent the risk of an electrical accident.
Water and electricity
First of all, teach the children that water and electricity are not friends at all. Never mix water and electricity. Children should be taught that they should never use plugged-in electrical appliances if their hands are wet. It is necessary to designate a strict ban on the use of any electrical appliances in the bathroom, swimming pool or in any other places where there is direct contact with water.
When it comes to electrical appliances that are commonly used in the bathroom, such as hair dryers, you need to make sure that you are in control. Children should not be allowed to use appliances in the bathroom without adult supervision. It is necessary to ensure that when using a hair dryer, the tap is turned off and the hands themselves are dry.
If your child is old enough, it is best to try to explain to him the reason: tell your child that our bodies are made up of a lot of water and salt, so electricity can easily pass through our body, causing us irreparable harm.
Remind children regularly to never plug appliances into the mains if their hands are wet, as this can easily lead to electric shock. This means that when they get out of the shower or wash their hands, they need to dry their hands as carefully as possible before they touch electrical equipment, switches, sockets.
In addition, advise your child never to place drinks on electrical appliances, such as a game console or laptop connected to a charger.
It is necessary to explain to the child that during a thunderstorm it is also not recommended to use electrical appliances and swim in an outdoor pool or pond. Teach your child that lightning is pure electricity and that water can attract it, so it’s best not to swim in this weather.
Electrical sockets, cords and cables
Children should always follow this rule. This is not discussed. This should be the #1 rule in your house : Never put anything in an outlet. If you are worried that a child can do this to you, then it is better to buy protective covers for sockets so that the child can definitely not insert anything into the socket.
Show your child how to unplug safely. This must be done by grasping the plastic part and not by pulling on the cord. Pulling on the cord may damage the plug, appliance, or outlet.
It is important not to leave electrical cables on the ground where they could be damaged. Follow this rule — it’s a great way to tidy up your child’s room.
Also be careful not to overload power cards or adapters. This may cause overheating, resulting in a fire. In addition, it is better to make sure that the fuse used has a safety switch.
If your child is old enough, you can teach them to find damaged cords. If the plastic is worn out and the wires are visible at the cable, then it is better not to touch such a cable. If a child saw such a cable, then he should first of all inform you about it.
Always keep electrical wires and cords away from heaters. If you are planning to replace a light bulb, be sure to turn off the light beforehand. Tell your child to never try to change a light bulb on their own.
Teach your child to turn off electrical appliances when not in use. This applies to toys, TVs, computers, music players, consoles and much more. This will greatly reduce the risk of electric shock and save you money on your energy bills.
In my opinion, the kitchen is one of the most dangerous places for a child. If your child sometimes has to reheat their own food, then it is necessary to explain to the child that the foil should never be placed inside the microwave oven, as this can cause a fire. Remind your child not to put metal objects in the toaster. To remove the bread from the toaster and remove anything that might be stuck there, it is best to use silicone or wooden tongs.
Every possible safety precaution must be taken when it comes to electrical safety for children in the family, as this is critical to preventing accidents. Electricity can be quite unpredictable, and so can children, so it’s especially important that you not only keep yourself safe, but also teach your child everything they need.
If you want to remake your electrical network and make it safer, or carry out a preventive check, then you can contact our electricians in Samara.
A story about electricity for children
In everyday life, we often come across such a concept as «electricity». What is electricity, have people always known about it?
It is almost impossible to imagine our modern life without electricity. Tell me, how can you do without lighting and heat, without an electric motor and telephone, without a computer and TV? Electricity has penetrated so deeply into our lives that sometimes we don’t even think what kind of magician helps us in our work.
This magician is electricity. What is the essence of electricity? The essence of electricity is that the flow of charged particles moves along a conductor (a conductor is a substance capable of conducting electric current) in a closed circuit from a current source to a consumer. Moving, the flow of particles perform a certain work.
This phenomenon is called « electric current «. The strength of an electric current can be measured. The unit of measurement of current strength — Ampere, got its name in honor of the French scientist who was the first to investigate the properties of current. The name of the physicist is Andre Ampère.
The discovery of electric current and other innovations associated with it can be attributed to the period: the end of the nineteenth — the beginning of the twentieth century. But people observed the first electrical phenomena as early as the fifth century BC. They noticed that a piece of amber worn with fur or wool attracts light bodies, for example, dust particles. The ancient Greeks even learned to use this phenomenon to remove dust from expensive clothes. They also noticed that if dry hair was combed with an amber comb, they stood up, pushing away from each other.
Let’s go back to the definition of electric current. Current is the directed movement of charged particles. If we are dealing with a metal, then charged particles are electrons. The Greek word for amber is electron.
Thus, we understand that the well-known concept of «electricity» has ancient roots.
Electricity is our friend. It helps us in everything. In the morning we turn on the light, the electric kettle. We put the food in the microwave to heat up. We use the elevator. We ride the tram, we talk on the cell phone. We work in industrial enterprises, in banks and hospitals, in the fields and in workshops, we study at a school where it is warm and light. And electricity works everywhere.
Like many things in our life, electricity has not only positive but also negative side. An electric current, like an invisible wizard, cannot be seen, smelled. It is possible to determine the presence or absence of current only using instruments, measuring equipment. The first case of fatal electric shock was described in 1862. The tragedy occurred when a person accidentally came into contact with live parts. In the future, there were many cases of electric shock.
Electricity! Attention electricity!
This story about electricity is for children. But, in itself, electricity is not a childish concept. Therefore, in this story, I would like to turn to moms and dads, grandparents.
Dear adults! When talking about electricity to children, do not forget to emphasize that the current is invisible, and therefore especially insidious. What not to do for adults and children? Do not touch with your hands, do not come close to wires and electrical complexes. Near power lines, substations, do not stop for rest, do not make fires, do not launch flying toys. A wire lying on the ground can be fraught with mortal danger. Electrical outlets, if there is a small child in the house, are an object of special control.
The main requirement for adults is not only to follow the safety rules themselves, but also to constantly inform children about how insidious electric current can be.