Fun Physics Activities for Kids


Explore physics on the playground with the See-Saw Balance physics activity.
Explore physics on the playground with the See-Saw Balance physics activity.
Publications International, Ltd.

Kids' natural curiosity makes them pretty terrific scientists. These Fun Physics Activities for Kids provide an entertaining and educational training ground for budding physicists.

In these activities, physics principles like gravity, friction, centrifugal force, and rotational pull are explored through hands-on experience. Rather than just reading about these ideas, kids can learn firsthand about the basic principles of physics in the great outdoors.

Slide Friction

With a few basic supplies, kids can use a playground slide to explore physical science fundamentals like motion and friction.

See-Saw Balance

Use a see-saw to learn about balance and scales. Discover what the see-saw in a nearby playground has to teach about physics basics.

Curve Balls

A spinning object in flight rarely flies in a straight line. Learn how to track the path of a curve ball.

Spinning Swings

Those figure skaters on TV spin so fast -- how do they do it? A playground swing set has the answer.

Use a playground slide in a physics experiment -- find out how on the next page.

Looking for more cool activities for kids? Check out these links:

Slide Friction

Find the truth in friction with the Slide Friction physics activity.
Find the truth in friction with the Slide Friction physics activity.
Publications International, Ltd.

In the Slide Friction physics activity, kids will learn about the force of friction and how it is reduced, all while hanging out at the playground.

­Friction is a force that stops motion. If there were no friction in the world, anything that starts moving in one direction would never stop. If you slide a wooden block across a floor, friction between the block and the floor makes the block stop.

What You'll Need:

  • Playground slide
  • Items to be tested (toys with wheels, wooden blocks, rocks),
  • Stopwatch
  • Partner
  • Waxed paper
  • Water

Lay out the items to be tested and decide which ones you think will go down the slide the fastest. Test each item one at a time. With your stopwatch ready, have your child hold one item at the top of the slide and release it on your signal. See how long it takes for the item to reach the bottom. Which objects go the fastest? What qualities made them move faster than others?Now, take one of the objects and rub the bottom of it with waxed paper. See how long it takes for it to reach the bottom of the slide. Try setting it on a square of waxed paper and see if that reduces friction. Wet the slide and see what effect water has. Will the items move faster or slower? Does the amount of water matter?A playground see-saw teaches kids about balance and scales in the activity on the next page -- find out how!

Looking for more cool activities for kids? Check out these links:

See-Saw Balance

Go back, go forth, and go learn with the See-Saw Balance physics activity.
Go back, go forth, and go learn with the See-Saw Balance physics activity.
Publications International, Ltd.

If they can make the see-saw balance in this physics activity, kids will get an exercise in cooperation -- and learn how scales work, too. See-saws are excellent examples of physical principles at work in a kid's world.

­If your future Einstein has ever wondered how the scales at the doctor's office works or how small weights can balance larger weight, use a see-saw at the nearest playground to held him or her find out.

What You'll Need:

  • See-saw
  • Two or more partners

NOTE: Before you begin, agree that no one will jump off the see-saw while another person is sitting on it. The sudden jolt can cause serious injury.

First, sit on one end of the see-saw and have your child sit on the other end. Is the see-saw balanced? Have the heavier person move toward the middle of the see-saw until it balances. Notice that neither of you changed your weight; only your position changed.

Now have two people sit on one side of the see-saw and one person

on the other. Decide together how to move people so that the see-saw becomes level. Should the two people move to the middle, or should the single person move?

Now that your child has explored the physics behind balance, go to the next page to learn about the physics of an object in flight.

Looking for more cool activities for kids? Check out these links:

Curve Balls

You may have heard the term 'curve ball' in baseball, but does a ball really curve in flight? The Curve Ball physics activity is a fun way for curious kids to find out how a rounded object moves in flight.

This activity requires either a windless day, a school gymnasium, or another large, indoor space to throw a ball in -- and we don't recommend the family room in your house.

What You'll Need:

  • Ping-pong ball
  • Waterproof marker
  • Playing field marked with straight lines (like a baseball diamond)
  • Paper towel tube

To prepare, color one half of the ping-pong ball with the marker. This will help reveal what happens to it in flight. Stand on a marked line on the playing field or gym and instruct your child to throw the ping-pong ball straight down the line. Have him/her throw it in such a way that the ball doesn't spin at all. What path does the ball take?Now, have your child put the ball in one end of the paper tube. Holding the other end, fling the ball out of the tube, trying to throw it straight. What path does it take now? Try this several times. The ball will probably spin. The axis of the spin is perpendicular to the flight path of the ball. The spin actually changes the path of the ball and makes it fly in a curve.The next physics activity teaches you how those incredible figure skaters spin around so fast. Keep reading, and get ready to head to the playground.Looking for more cool activities for kids? Check out these links:

Spinning Swings

How on earth do ice skaters spin so fast? The Spinning Swings physics activity will reveal all, with the help of your nearest playground swing set.

This outdoor physics activity teaches about centrifugal force. When a spinning object is compact, it spins incredibly fast. When the object is not compact, the centrifugal force is reduced and the object slows down.

Explore this simple activity with your kids -- and make sure they're prepared to get dizzy.

What You'll Need:

  • Playground swing
  • Partner
  • Stopwatch

Sit your child on the swing and twist it slowly around and around until the swing is wound up tightly. Have a stopwatch ready; when you let go, time how long it takes for the swing to unwind. Next, try the same thing, but tell your child to stretch her arms and legs out as far as they will go. This puts some of the weight away from the center of mass. Time how long it takes for the swing to unwind.Now instruct your child to pull her arms and legs close into her body. This brings all the weight close to the center. How does this change affect the spinning speed?Next time your child sees skaters on television or in person, point out how they hold their arms when they spin. The closer their arms are to their bodies, the faster they can whirl.

Looking for more cool activities for kids? Check out these links:

ABOUT THE CRAFT DESIGNERS

Contributing writers: Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls.