our everyday life

Propulsion Activities for Kids

by Kim Blakesley

Learning about propulsion, when done correctly, will elevate your child's curiosity about science and how things move. Several simple experiments are easy to complete at home with everyday items such as a balloon, fizz tabs and baking soda. Complete all experiments in a large area free of obstructions such as a basement, patio or garage.

Rocket Propulsion

Learn how a rocket is propelled through space with a balloon and a drinking straw. A rocket moves forward with the push of the fuel from the fuel tank against the earth or the atmosphere. It is the same principle as the air being released from a balloon. To demonstrate rocket propulsion, cut a length of packing string 20 feet long. Tie one end to a stable object at least four feet off the floor or ground. Slide a drinking straw onto the string. Tie the other end of the string to an object 19 feet away so the string is tight. Move the straw to one end of the string. Roll a piece of tape and stick it to the bottom of the straw. Fill the balloon half full of air. Stick the top of the balloon to the tape. Let the end go and watch the balloon slide down the string. Mark the location with a marker. Repeat the process with a balloon that is three-quarter's full of air then blown up completely.

Pop Rocket

A film container or other pop on/off plastic container will make good bodies for a pop rocket. Drop a fizz tablet in the container. Add half a container of water and quickly snap on the lid. Immediately turn the container over and place it on a flat surface. Stand back and watch the container pop in to the air.

Catalyst Goop

Enjoy learning about propulsion by making goop with yeast. The combination of yeast and hydrogen peroxide causes yeast to expand and propel objects from a plastic bottle. Measure four ounces of hydrogen peroxide and pour it into a plastic bottle. Place the bottle on a cookie sheet. Add three drops of food coloring and dishwashing soap. Drop in three small toys that will easily come out of the opening. Mix 2 tablespoons of hot water and 1 tablespoon of yeast in a small measuring cup. Pour the contents of the measuring cup in to the plastic bottle. Stand back and watch the fun begin. The mixture will grow and propel the small toys from the bottle.

Sandbox Volcano

Experiment with the propulsion of lava by making a sandbox volcano. Cover one end of a paper towel or toilet paper tube with wax paper. Secure the wax paper to the bottom of the tube with a rubber band. Dig a 2-inch deep hole and place the wax paper end of the tube in the ground. Pack the sand tight around the tube. Cover the outside of the tube with a pyramid shape of sand leaving the top of the tube open. Pour one-half cup of baking soda in the tube. Quickly pour 1 cup of cider vinegar in the tube. Stand back and watch the bubbles push out the top of the volcano.

Photo Credits

  • Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images