Show me that Air is There

by Deb on November 6, 2009

Sounds simple?  But how do kids know for themselves?  The idea of something all around us that we can’t see and don’t really notice is a bit, well, weird.  Challenge a big kid to show you that air is there for hours of entertainment!

This is a great activity for kids to practice investigation skills.  They really have to think creatively to come up with different ways on their own. They are making a prediction, doing the test, then they should be able to explain what happened.

A good place to start if they are stumped is a list of what air is like.  For example:

  • Air takes up space.
  • Air moves.
  • Air carries smells.
  • See what they can come up with, …

This should give them some ideas of ways to demonstrate those, then they can test them with a little experiment.  An example of the whole thing could be:

Prediction – If I put a glass upside down and push it in water the water won’t get up to the top because the air will be there.

Do it!

Explanation – Air takes up space.  When the glass is upside down the air can’t get out and is trapped by the water, and the water can’t squash it up to the top.  So I know that air is there in the glass.

Here are some more ideas (but don’t show them this unless they have had a really good go at thinking for themselves!):

  • Use electronic kitchen scales to weigh a balloon, then blow it up and weigh it again.  If you have accurate scales it will be more because air does have weight.
  • Hold your finger over the end of a pulled out syringe, then try to push it in.  You will feel the air pushing to get out because it can’t be squashed down to nothing.
  • Use a straw to blow bubbles into water and catch them in an upside down container.
  • The wind can be seen, heard and felt making things move.
  • You can move thingsby blowing on them.
  • Your breath can make things hot or cold.
  • If you close your eyes and someone holds things behind you you can still smell them – the smell can go around corners.

This is a great way to get into the idea of Predict, Observe, Explain. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just say what you think will happen, do it, then try to explain it!  And of course these are all things you can do with little kids to introduce them to the idea of weird invisible stuff all around us.

What little experiments can your kids come up with?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie November 13, 2009 at 5:32 am

My kids have been asking about air lately (I think because my son has asthma so we’ve been talking about breathing and its importance, so air has come up a lot) so thanks for the ideas, we can try some of those next time they ask (sometimes I talk too much in response to their questions, instead of letting them try to figure it out themselves!)

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Deb November 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I’m a terrible talker! I love to explain and explain, I have to make myself step back and let them see it.

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