Experiment with Static Electricity!

Try these at-home activities

You may have experienced what happens when you rub a balloon on your head, but static electricity does more than just make your hair stand up! Here is a safe static electricity experiment for some science-filled fun at home. 

Separating Salt and Pepper

For this activity, you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 balloon

Mix the salt and pepper in a pile. Then, quickly rub the balloon on your head and hold it close to the pile. Watch as the pepper jumps away from the salt! Rub the balloon for different lengths of time to hold different amounts of static to pick up more pepper.

step 1

Step 1

step 2

Step 2

 

What’s happening here? 

It’s not magic, it’s static electricity! Rubbing a balloon gives it a negative charge, also called static electricity. When the balloon gains enough static electricity, and it is brought near the mix of salt and pepper, the negative charge polarizes the salt and pepper. That is, it moves the electrons of the salt and pepper to one side, leaving one end positive and one end negative. The positive end is attracted to the negatively charged balloon, but because pepper is much lighter than salt, the pepper flakes will jump on the balloon, leaving the salt behind. 

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Around Electricity

Keeping small children safe around electricity can seem daunting, but it’s not as difficult a task as it seems. Here are a few tips to make your home safer for your little ones.

  • Keep objects with cords away from areas with water
  • Secure your unused outlets with plastic inserts
  • Hide extension cords behind furniture
  • Set electrical devices (such as DVD players or radios) on out-of-reach shelves or behind barriers like doors in an entertainment center
  • Store kitchen appliances in cupboards, out of reach
  • Always dry your hands completely before handling anything powered by electricity
  • Educate kids about electricity in ways that are easy to understand. Explain to them the way that electricity runs through wires and powers the things in your home, and that it can flow through bodies and other materials that could cause shock or fire.