Balloons are a classic childhood staple, providing endless hours of frugal entertainment for children of all ages. They are also a great catalyst for science exploration.
My kids and I have recently been experimenting with building our own model rocket, and we had a blast launching water rockets at our local science museum. Rockets are fascinating, and offer a wonderful hands-on opportunity to learn about important science concepts, such as velocity, force, gravity, and more.
Rockets can be as simple, or as complicated, as you’d like. We tend to favor simplicity in my household, which is how we ended up with this easy and engaging science experiment for kids. Using only a few items we already had around the house, we created and explored with our very own homemade Balloon Rockets.
After gathering the necessary materials, we began by tying one end of the yarn to the back of a chair.
Next, we threaded a drinking straw onto the other end of the yarn, and then tied it to the second chair.
After attaching two pieces of tape (about 2 inches in length each) to the center of the straw, it was time for the real fun to begin.
We inflated the balloon (leaving the end untied), held onto the opening so the air wouldn’t escape, and carefully attached it to the straw using the tape.
Finally, we pulled the balloon to one end of the yarn (touching a chair), and let go of it. The balloon shot across the yarn, delighting us all!
These Balloon Rockets provide a meaningful example of action and reaction. It’s a fairly simple concept – to make an object move one way, a force has to work in the opposite direction. In this case, the balloon is full of air. When you let go of the balloon, causing the air to rush out of the opening, it creates a pushing force in the opposite direction. This results in the balloon moving rapidly across the yarn.
Real rockets work in a similar way. A rocket engine is powered by exploding fuel inside of a chamber that is open at the bottom. The force of the explosion creates an opposite force that pushes the rocket up and into space.
Our homemade version may not have quite as exciting as a real-life rocket, but it sure provided a memorable and enjoyable learning experience for all of us.
Try these other rocket activities in your home or classroom: