Forms of Energy for Kids

What You Need:

  • Bicycle
  • Various household items
  • Various classroom items

What You Do:

  1. Have your child find and write the definition of energy and the different forms of energy: chemical, mechanical, radiant, electrical, and nuclear. By doing the research himself, he’ll be taking the lead in the experiment—always a good skill to foster.
  2. Go outside and have your child position himself on a bicycle. Ask him what he needs to do in order to make the bike move. He should respond that he needs to push the pedals with his feet. Then, ask him what happens to the bike when he does this. He should respond that the tires begin to turn and move the bike. Try it out to use a little energy!
  3. Have him look at his definitions of the forms of energy. Which one applies to his feet pushing the pedals which in turn move the bike? He should respond by identifying mechanical energy. His legs transfer mechanical energy to the pedals, which transfer the energy to the tires. The tires move the bike from one place to another!
  4. Have your child look at his definitions of the forms of energy again. Ask him to look around the house and find something that can demonstrate another form of energy. For example, a toaster takes electrical energy running through the wire and heats up the elements which in turn toast the bread. Or on a sunny day, sit near a window placing your arm next to the window; after a few minutes your arm will be warm because the radiant energy from the sun is transferred through the window onto the arm, which makes it feel warm. Want an example of chemical energy? Look no further than the 4th of July! If you have ever seen a fireworks display, it's an awesome example of the change that takes place in chemical energy; it changes into light, which you see from below.

Extension Activity:

Have your child create an “energy” log. For one entire day, he must write down everything he does that requires energy. Remember that the human body uses energy to think and move!

Classroom scavenger hunt – consult the teacher and see if he or she would like to participate by having the kids hunt for all types of energy being used in the classroom.

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