Have you ever had a static shock from a shopping trolley or an escalator? The shock is because of static electricity which can cause materials to attract or repel each other.
How does static electricity work?
Static electricity is what makes your hair stand on end when you rub a balloon on it. Static electricity occurs when an atom gains or loses an electron.
What is an atom?
All materials are made of atoms.
Atoms contain tiny particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons (subatomic particles). Protons and neutrons are found in the nucleus of an atom. Electrons orbit the nucleus but occasionally break away.
Balloons and some other objects like a fluffy jumper can steal electrons from other surfaces. The extra electrons give the balloon a negative charge, which attracts other objects, like the tissue paper we use in this activity.
A fun way to demonstrate static electricity is by making jumping frogs.
Static Electricity Experiment – Jumping Frogs
Paper, cut into shapes. We used sugar paper, but tissue paper would also work brilliantly.
Woolly jumper or hair
Cut up your different types of paper into frog shapes (or anything else you want to make jump)
Blow up your balloon, and rub it on your jumper or hair. Hold above the frogs, and watch them jump up.
How does this static electricity experiment work?
Rubbing the balloon on your jumper or hair charges it with static electricity, this attracts the frogs making them jump up to the balloon. They will stick until the charge wears off.
More static electricity experiments
Does it still work if you use normal paper and cardboard?
Can you time how long the frogs stay stuck for?
If you rub the balloon on your hair for longer, do the frogs stick for longer?
Do smaller frogs stick for longer than bigger ones?
Try other shapes and themes, like our jumping leaves for Autumn.
Science Kiddo uses static electricity to separate salt and pepper.
Inspiration Laboratories also has a very cool ghost static electricity activity.