You probably more readily associate balloons with birthday parties than with scientific exploration, but these experiments will give you a new perspective.
You will need a package of balloons, a newspaper, salt, pepper, some string, some wool fabric or a wool sweater and some string.
Blow up a balloon. Ask your child what’s in the balloon. The correct answer is not “nothing”, but, rather, air.
You can make a “balloon boat”. At bath time, fill the tub with water. Blow up a balloon. Don’t tie the balloon shut. Hold it shut with your fingers. Next lay the balloon on the water and let go of the balloon. Watch as the release of the air in the balloon propels the “boat” forward until the air has left the balloon.
You can also make a balloon “jet”. Once again, blow up your balloon and hold it shut with your fingers. Let it go and watch it fly around the room. Note that the balloon will fall to the floor once no more air comes out.
This next activity is best done in a darkened room. Blow up two balloons and tie them shut. Rub both of them on wool fabric. Hold the balloons very close together but not touching. You will see a spark jump between the balloons. It happens very quickly so you may have to do it more than once to observe the spark. Rubbing the balloon on wool gives it an electric charge and causes static.
Next rub the balloon on the wool fabric and then hold the balloon near small cut or torn pieces of newspaper. The newspaper will stick to your balloon. Try to pick up other items with the balloon. Hold the balloon near your head to get a whole new hairdo!
Pour some salt on a piece of paper or a plate. Smooth it out with your fingers. Then shake some pepper on the salt. Rub your balloon on the wool fabric and hold it above the salt and pepper. Watch the pepper jump up to stick to the balloon. The grains of pepper stick to the balloon because they are lighter than salt.
Blow up two balloons to the same size and tie them shut tightly with string. Put one balloon in the freezer and leave the other one out. After 24 hours, take the balloon out of the freezer. Compare the two balloons. You will see that the balloon from the freezer is now smaller. Cold air takes up less space than warm air. As the air in the balloon from the freezer warms, the balloon will once again be the same size as the other balloon.
Try these balloon activities with your child, and you will find that science can be almost as fun as a birthday party.
Source: Easy Science Experiments by Diane Molleson and Sarah Savage, Scholastic, Inc., New York