The thing I love most about this experiment is that my son totally came up with it. One day we had some helium balloons at home and he asked me to tie some of his animal figures to the string to see if they would fly. Some were too heavy others worked great. And I got the idea to make the process a bit more formal. This is an easy experiment for kids, similar to a Sink or Float? activity, that teaches the scientific method, making a hypothesis, testing and then refining it. There’s also an element of problem solving and applications of comparative weight to make more accurate predictions. Plus it’s exciting to watch a monkey sail up to the ceiling on a balloon. Who doesn’t love flying monkeys?
I’ll divide this experiment into two parts. For younger children, the first part may be enough. There are also a lot of other variations you could do with this like adding more balloons or weight. And of course you could use any item that can be tied onto a balloon’s tail. It’s customizable to your child interest and level.
We used some leftover Mylar balloons from Eid. These are great because they stay inflated for a longer time than traditional balloons. Also, it was super exciting for my son to do a countdown from 10 for each trial.
Here we did a basic hypothesis creation. I asked him to choose 5 animals and predict whether they would fly or crash. He was unsure and basically just guessed. We tied each animal to a single balloon and tested to see what would happen. Then we recorded whether or not our prediction was correct. As I had hoped, our predictions were pretty inaccurate. We also concluded that one balloon was not enough.
Since none of the animals would fly, we had to come up with a solution. After some discussion, we added a second balloon to ‘help’ the first one. Then we tested two of the animals from part 1. One flew and the other crashed.
I then asked him to pick 5 different animals to try. Before making a hypothesis, he used the balance to see if the new animal was heavier or lighter than the ones we knew would crash or fly. We made a new chart of predictions and tested them. He used some logical reasoning in his prediction-making this time. Things that were heavier than the one that crashed would also crash, etc.
We had much more accurate results this time!
He enjoyed this activity so much that he keeps wanting to do it again. To try different things and see what will happen. That’s what I want him to learn: the spirit of wonder and trying out ideas. Science shouldn’t be just about memorizing facts. I hope to nurture his natural curiosity about the world and help him to understand the process of scientific inquiry.
I’d also like to point out the lab notebook that I’ve started for him. Each time we do a more formal experiment, I plan to do a little write up in here. I want him to be able to go back and read it and I’m hoping he will eventually include sketches and his own writing. (He can read but hasn’t shown much interest in writing so far.)
I’m excited to do more experiments with him now. What are your favorites?