Looking to amp up the fun and have the kids learn something about electricity? Give this electric play dough experiment a try. It’s simple, hands-on and the kids will l-o-v-e it!
In this episode of Adventures in Learning, the kids have a blast with a cool project developed by AnneMarie Thomas of the St. Thomas Lab at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. Thomas and her researchers wanted to introduce circuits to young kids. In their research they discovered that salt dough was a great conductor and sugar dough was a solid insulator.
Want to give it a try?
What You’ll Need
- conductive dough (click here for recipe)
- insulating dough (click here for recipe)
- battery pack
- light emitting diodes/LEDS
You can find the last three items on the list at an electronics store or you can order a kit online at squishycircuitsstore.com.
If you’re assembling everything yourself, pick up some spade terminals while you’re at the store and crimp them to the end of the wires. Click here to see how. Let me assure you, if I can do it, anyone can. Honestly.
How to Make Circuits
Once you have all the materials, let the kids sculpt, play and create! Use this activity to talk about electricity and how conductive materials allow it to flow freely, while insulating materials make it slow down or stop.
First, have the kids make a very simple series circuit. At its most basic form, the kids are forming a circle that allows the electricity to flow in one direction to light up a light. Start by having the kids take two pieces of conductive dough. Next, place a wire into each one making sure the two pieces of dough do not touch. Then have the kids close the circuit by placing a wire from an LED into each piece of dough. If the LED doesn’t light up, have the kids flip it around. LEDs only allow energy to flow in one direction. The kids have just created a series circuit!
Now have them remove a piece from the circuit, either take one of the battery pack wires out of the dough, or remove one of the LED wires. The light goes out. It’s a broken or open circuit. The energy can’t flow.
Have the kids close the circuit again. Now have them push the pieces of dough together. What happens to the light? They have a short circuit. To fix it, have them place a piece of insulating dough between the pieces of conductive dough. The light shines again.
While this activity is the ultimate in rainy day fun, it’d also be amazing at a birthday party. Pair it with a ‘take apart’ activity where kids use real tools to take apart old electronics to see how they work, and you have a STEM/STEAM dream party.
Want more ideas for inspiring Science Technology Engineering Art and Math projects? Check out these links…
More Adventures in Learning from PBS Parents
- Balloon Cars and Other Toys Your Kids Can Make Themselves
- Iceberg Ahead! Sink or Float Experiments
- It’s A Plane! Straw Airplanes That Really Fly
- The Great Elephant Toothpaste Experiment
- Super Bouncy Balls