It’s a science experiment. It’s a game. It’s both! Need a fun and easy indoor activity this winter? Try this Static Electricity game that doubles as a science lesson.

Materials You Will Need:
Balloon
Paper
Scissors
Dryer sheet (optional)

How to Play:

  • Cut paper into small squares
  • Blow up the balloon. Rub it on your head.
  • Try to pick up as many pieces of paper as you can.
  • Rub the balloon with a dryer sheet to discharge the static electricity and start again.
  • Whoever picks up the most wins!

Static Electricity Game - (Cool) Progeny

Expand the Learning:

Want to expand this game? Here are some fun options!

Make it a math game: Write numbers on the pieces of paper and have kids add them together.

Make it a color game: Draw colored circles on paper and see if you can pick up a specific color (e.g., red).

Make it a shape game: Draw shapes on the pieces of paper. Call out all the shapes you collected.

Make it a spelling game: Write letters on pieces of paper, have kids collect the ones they need to spell a word (e.g., cat, car, cornucopia).

Make it a matching game: Have a young child? Take a piece of paper and make a game board by drawing shapes, colors or numbers on it. Then make playing pieces by drawing the matches on the small pieces of paper. Once kids pick up the playing pieces with the balloon, have them match them to the game board.

But what’s the science here?

Let’s do a super quick review: Protons have a positive charge, neutrons have no charge and electrons have a negative charge.

During the winter, there’s less humidity in the air. Humidity helps electrons move off you quicker. That means when the air is dry, like it is now, you build up more electrons before they move off of you. More electrons = more charge = more shocks and hair standing on end.

We’re using the dry air to our advantage. When you rub the balloon on your head, it easily picks up some of your electrons, giving the balloon a negative charge.

All those extra electrons on the balloon are looking for a way off. It’s imbalanced. It sees the paper, which has a neutral charge, and says, “hey, there’s our ticket.” So when you hold the balloon near the paper, the paper sticks to it.

But watch what happens over time. Does the paper fall? Why? What you can’t see is that there’s an exchange going on. The balloon is sharing electrons with the paper returning the balloon to neutral. Once that happens paper will fall off.

Here’s another way to “see” how it works. Charge a balloon by rubbing it on your head. Now stick it to a wall. At some point the balloon will fall off the wall. When that happens, you’ll know the balloon released enough electrons to return itself to a neutral charge.