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Electrical Education for Kids

Whether it's your TV, computer, or video game console, many of the things you use almost every day are all powered by electricity. This modern marvel is something many of us take for granted, but thanks to electricity, we can use lights, cook food in just minutes, and make our lives much easier and more convenient. Thanks to the inventive minds of people like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Michael Faraday, and many others, the idea of electricity is something that has become commonplace in most civilized nations. But the idea of electricity is a bit more complicated than just flipping a switch. In order to appreciate the electric gadgets and things we use every day, it's important to understand just how electricity works.

What Is Electricity?

Even though you might think of electricity as just the wires and plugs in your home, it actually comes from natural sources like lightning, coal, and even water. In essence, electricity is the flow of energy via electric charge. This charge can be transported by using natural resources to help it move through wires. When electricity travels, it is called current. This current helps to turn things on, like lights, the microwave, and even your air conditioner. All things are made up of atoms, and these tiny atoms have a positive and negative charge inside them. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. When the electrons in atoms get overly excited or rub together, it creates an electrical charge. The key to making electricity work is to capture these charges and then transmit them through wires and into our homes and appliances. A circuit is created with wires, and this circuit helps provide a pathway for the electrons to travel. When those electrons move through a power source, it helps to turn on your lights and other things that you use to make them work.

Experiments

There are lots of ways you can see how electricity works by trying fun experiments. One way to see how electrons in atoms work is to take an inflated balloon and rub it on your head. As you rub, you are charging up electrons through friction. When you pull the balloon away, you may notice how your hair is sticking up! This is a good way to show you the effect of the charged electrons. When your hair is sticking up, it is because you have created a charge of static electricity that has been transferred to your hair. The static electricity that has been transferred to your head is what makes your hair suddenly stand up. A good way to see how electricity moves through substances called conductors is with a pickle and a light bulb that is plugged in with exposed wires. Make sure you have a teacher or parents to help you with this experiment. When you place the wires into the pickle, the bulb will light up. When you pull the wires out of the pickle, the light bulb goes back out. This is because salt is a very good conductor of electricity, and pickles are full of salt. There are plenty of other fun experiments you can try at school or at home to help you see just how electrical current flows and how it works to make your appliances and electronics turn on and function.

Games

Playing some fun games is a great way to help you learn and understand more about how electricity works. Think about the ways you can help to save electricity at home. Write down a list of the things you use every day, and then test your memory to see if you can remember to turn them off when you are not using them. This can save energy and help the environment, too. There are lots of symbols involved in writing about and using electricity. Use flash cards and draw the symbols and what they mean on each card. Then, try to remember what they stand for by using the flash cards. You can also see how static electricity works by challenging your friends to a soda can race. Rub an inflated balloon on your soda can, and then pull the can using the power of the electricity that you've created by letting it follow your balloon. See which one of you can make it to the finish line first by powering your soda can using just the energy you've created from the static of the balloon. This is a great way to see how electricity can make things move.

Fun Facts

Electricity is truly a fascinating part of nature and our world. Did you know that electricity travels at the speed of light? That's more than 186,000 miles per second! Benjamin Franklin experimented with electricity in the 18th century and discovered that lighting could produce electricity; that's part of why lightning storms are so dangerous. Power lines are dangerous, too, so it's pretty amazing to see how birds can sit on a power line and not get shocked. But if the bird touches two power lines at once, it can conduct power between the two lines and get shocked. There's one animal that's just fine having electricity in its body, though: The electric eel can produce an electrical output of about 500 volts, and these eels use it for hunting and self-defense.

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