Recycling Christmas Lights

What You Need:

  • Christmas tree lights
  • Copper wire strippers
  • AA batteries
  • Electrical tape
  • Table
  • Notebook
  • Pencil

What You Do:

  1. Review basic electrical safety with your child. Remind her to never try an electrical experiment without you present. Since mixing electricity with water is very dangerous, make sure she knows that her hands must be dry whenever she works with electricity.
  2. Have her use the copper wire strippers to cut one light from the string of Christmas tree lights. She'll want to leave at least one inch of the strand on either side of the light.
  3. Help her strip the green insulation off the last quarter inch of both of the strand's ends.
  4. Let your child take a closer look at the green insulation and the copper wire inside the strand. Explain to your child that the plastic green insulation does not carry electricity; instead it provides protection for the copper wire which does carry electricity.
  5. Review basic electrical circuits with your child.  This activity is more fun if your child figures out how to make the light shine by herself.  In order for the light to go on, the battery, light, and bulb must be arranged in a circuit -- which, as the name suggests, is a circle.
  6. Using the electrical tape to secure the stripped wire on the battery, let your child practice, trial and error style, to get the light to turn on. 
  7. If she needs some help, give her a hint! The correct arrangement has the stripped wires of the light touching the top and bottom of the battery. She should press the wire on the battery through the electrical tape.
  8. Be aware that  if you are recycling an old strand  of lights, a couple  bulbs might be broken. In this case, the light won't go on no matter what your child does. Keep working until you find a working light.
  9. Once your child gets the light on, detach the circuit as soon as you have finished admiring her handiwork. No need to waste those batteries!

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