Forces are all around us and affect everything we do, with that in mind we’ve put together a collection of ideas for learning about forces and motion with something for everyone from pre schoolers to grown ups.
Let’s start with some basics.
What is a force?
A force is a push or a pull. Forces can make object moves or stop, speed them up or slow them down. If you push a toy car it moves, if you push it harder it moves faster. Forces can also make objects change direction or shape.
A lighter object needs less force to move than a heavier object. For example you could push a n empty box easily, but a filled box would be harder, it would need more force to move.
If you give a toy car a push what happens? It speeds up and then slows down. The reason it slows down is because of two forces, air resistance and friction.
Air resistance is air pushing on a moving object which slows it down.
Friction is the force between two objects when you rub them together. Try rubbing your hands together? Do they get hot? You feel the friction between your hands as heat.
Air resistance and friction take time to slow an object down, if you want an object to stop quickly you need to apply further force, for example a brake on a bike.
Other examples of forces are magnetism, gravity and air pressure.
Over the years we’ve completed lots of forces experiments on Science Sparks, here are the best ones.
Learn about simple pushes and pulls in this easy activity.
What is Friction?
Friction tries to stop objects sliding past each other. Friction allows things to start and stop moving and slows them down.
Imagine sliding two strips of ribbon over each other and then think how hard it would be with two velcro strips. There is more friction between the velcro strips than the ribbon. The amount of friction between two objects depends on what the objects are made from. The rougher the surface the more friction is produced, this is why rockets are streamlined!
Find out why you slip and slide more on smooth surfaces than rougher surfaces with this slipping and sliding activity. Do be careful not to fall over though.
Discover why we salt/grit icy roads in winter.
Investigate which material would make the best ice hockey puck. We want to reduce friction for a good puck as it needs to move quickly and cleanly across the ice.
Learn about reducing friction with this easy Hovercraft.
A film canister rocket is a great demonstration of lots of different forces, but it falls back to the ground thanks to gravity.
Water powered bottle rockets are another fantastic example of gravity and lots of other forces too!
Discover a cool science trick to defy gravity using magnets.
Design and build straw rockets and launch at different angles to investigate how the flight trajectory changes.
For younger children, try this fun gravity activity from Inspiration Laboratories.
Making vehicles move
We used Carbon Dioxide released from a baking soda and vinegar reaction to power a bottle boat.
Store up energy in an elastic band to make a cotton reel car move.
Slightly more simple and much more powerful is our balloon powered car.
Red Ted Art made a fun elastic powered tugboat which moves using the energy stored when you wind up an elastic band.
Build some easy magnet powered cars or a magnet powered boat.
How about a magnet sensory bottle?
Air Resistance Experiments
Explore gravity and air resistance with these simple paper spinners.
Make a parachute, can you save an egg?
Air Pressure Experiments
Watch a boiled egg drop into a bottle with a bit of science magic.
Make a bottle rocket, remember you need lots of space for this one.
Watch water rise with this cool air pressure experiment.
Pop the lid off a bottle with these coin poppers.
Make these shooters and explore trajectory and aerodynamics.
How about a film canister rocket?
Other ideas for learning about forces and motion
Drop water balloons filled with paint and compare splatter patterns from different heights.
Explore energy and ‘bouncy-ness’ with some balls and different surfaces.
Try this fun conker investigation, using forces to break the conker.
Find out how you can stand on a paper cup without it breaking.
Why do you get dizzy on a roundabout? It’s all about the forces.
How about building some stable structures and investigating the ‘force’ needed to knock them over?
You could investigate the force needed to break an eggshell.
Finally, do you know why a balloon makes a funny noise when you let it go?
We’ll be adding to this list all the time so do keep popping back.