How strong is paper? Taken from Cracking Chemistry

Todays experiment is taken from a rather brilliant book from QED Publishing. Cracking Chemistry is part of the ‘Science Crackers‘ range. It is beautifully laid out with striking photos and pictures to really catch a child’s attention and interest. My 4 year old was fascinated. The book explains all about the world of atoms and materials. Each topic is explained in terms easy for a child to understand and demonstrated with examples they can relate to.

There are also lots of hands on activities such as this one.

What you need:

a book

about 16 sheets of paper (A4 good )

Sticky Tape


  • Try to stand the sheets on paper on their ends. Even that is impossible. They cannot hold up themselves let alone a book.
  • Roll up each piece of paper into a tube about 3cm across and tape the ends together.
  • Tape each set of 4 tubes into a bundle, make 4 bundles.
  • Place the bundles in a square, and place the book carefully on top.


We also added a space shuttle to the top of ours to add a bit of extra weight.

Z was very surprised by how strong the paper tubes were, we added lots of things to the top of the book to try to make the tubes collapse. It was only when Z himself stood on the book that the tubes gave in! I wouldn’t recommend trying that though.

The Science Bit

When the sheet of paper is flat, it is floppy and weak in all directions. If it is rolled into a tube, it becomes stiffer in one direction, end to end. We think of some materials as being strong and some weak, but the shape of the material can be just as important as the material itself in terms of strength.

Think about where tubes are used for strength. How about scaffolding?


Activity taken from:


 QED sent us this book free of charge to review, all words and opinions are my own



There are 9 comments

Post Your Thoughts