Explaining Bernoulli’s Effect to a 5-year-old

If I stated Bernoulli’s principle to my 5-year-old, I’d probably get crickets or millions of questions as he would try to understand this word soup (for a young kid, anyway.) Ok, let’s try it:

If no energy is added to the system, an increase in velocity is accompanied by a decrease in density and/or pressure. The law is directly related to the principle of conservation of energy.

Hmm, he picked option c.) mumble “Ooooookaaaaay” and walk away.

What if I tried a different approach? Here goes nothing:

Explaining Bernoulli’s Effect to a 5-year-old

Can you throw a ball?

Can you throw water? (Pro tip: make sure you ask this question outside.)

How about gas? Can you throw air? After all, air doesn’t hold it’s shape the same way solids or liquids do: you can’t grab a handful or pour a glassful of air. Go ahead, try it!

This experiment will demonstrate that air, like other matter, responds to force. We will apply force to the air molecules and throw them! We will send them flying in a single direction using Bernoulli’s Effect. We are going to throw air!

Materials needed for this experiment:

Let’s start small:

  • Plastic or paper cup
  • Large balloon or a heavy duty trash bag
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Adult supervision and help
  1. Cut a hole in the bottom of the cup. The plastic cup we bought kept breaking, so we ended up using heated knife to create the opening. (Please, please, please use caution and responsible adult’s help!!!) To avoid sharp heated objects, use paper cups.20180127_214254
  2. Create a membrane that will go over the top of the cup by cutting off the neck of the balloon or by cutting a circle out of heavy duty trash bag/shower curtain. Stretch it over the lip of the cup and secure with the rubber band.20180127_214301
  3. Point your air cannon at the lightweight object, gently pull back the membrane, then release it. You can also fire your air cannon by tapping the membrane.
  4. Play around with the size and shape of the container, shape, size or the position of the opening. Which changes improve or diminish your air cannon’s performance?
  5. Optional: fill the plastic cup with water vapor (made with dry ice or fog machine) or smoke (smoke bomb.) Repeat steps 3 and 4.

Fun experiment, isn’t it? Let’s multiply the fun factor by making it BIGGER!!!!

*****Since this project is much more labor intensive and attention demanding than the small one, we made this version of air vortex cannon during kids’ nap time.*****

For the giant version of this experiment you will need:

  • 32 gallon plastic trash can
  • heavy duty trash bag or a plastic shower curtain.
  • bungee cord
  • box cutter
  • Adult supervision and help
  1. Using the box cutter, cut a 6″ hole in the bottom of the trash can (most trash cans have a line that will guide you.)20180127_215115
  2. Cut a piece of heavy duty trash bag and attach it with bungee cords over the top of the trash can. Option 2: use duck tape to secure the membrane to the opening. We added a bungee type cord handle for bigger…”kick.”20180127_215126
  3. Point your air cannon at the target (solo cup tower or a balloon) and gently tap the membrane.
  4. Oooooh and aaaaah
  5. Play around with the size and shape of the container, shape, size or the position of the opening. Which changes improve or diminish your air cannon’s performance?
  6. Optional: if you have access to fog machine or another smoke source…USE IT!!!! Fill the inside of the air vortex cannon with smoke from available source and repeat step 3. The rolling rings of smoke will demonstrate Bernoulli’s effect.

The science behind the experiment:

Bernoulli’s principle states that the faster air is moving, the lower its pressure. The air inside the vortex ring moves faster than the air outside the vortex. The pressure inside the vortex is higher than the pressure outside. When the membrane is pushed forward, it rushes the air molecules toward the air cannon opening. This action causes a chain reaction of air molecules crashing into each other on their way out. The outer edge of this moving air is rolling backwards on itself and… whoosh! A stream of air rushes straight out of air vortex cannon.

Explaining Gravity To A 5-Year-Old

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High school physics usually include a brief introduction to Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation:


By then, physical science students already have a preconceived notion of what gravity is. Teachers  have to explain it in a  way that’s entertaining, but not too difficult, considering the nature of the law of gravity.

But how do you explain the concept to a curious 5-year-old who relentlessly barrages you with never-ending questions?

As with any difficult concept, first of all, give your little scientists a lot of examples and counterexamples!

Second, break the new information down into small manageable chunks.

Third, let them practice and explore!

Fourth, sacrifice some of the details and accuracy in favor of the big picture. Dan Heath, co-author of Made to Stick, notes that “the more you know about something, the harder it is for you to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge”. This has consequences when communicating ideas, especially to a young child.

Finally, don’t assume that you know your student’s learning style.  Multi-sensory experience creates more connections and associations and helps your budding scientists remember and retain learned information more effectively.

With that in mind, let’s go on an adventure of

Explaining gravity to 5-year-olds

Most 5-year-olds have experimented with gravity. A lot. Just Google “kids vs gravity.” Ouch!

Gravity is an invisible universal force of attraction that acts on all matter. It keeps you and everything on Earth from flying out into the space.

Sir Isaac Newton, an English mathematician who lived 300 years ago, discovered gravity.

What was the world like before the discovery of gravity? Did everyone float around?


No, things have been falling down since prehistoric times, and surely Sir Isaac wasn’t the first one to notice it, but he was the first one to come up with a theory that we now know as law of gravity.

One of the most famous anecdotes in the history of science says that Sir Isaac Newton made the discovery when he saw a falling apple.

He noticed that the objects always fell to the surface and he realized that some force must be acting on falling objects, it has a hold on…everything! Newton called this force “gravity” and he determined that gravitational forces exist between all objects.

You exert gravitational force on the people around you too! That force isn’t very strong because you are not very massive.  Now if you were the size of a planet, it would be a different story.

What goes up must come down…Down…does it mean that things in Australia float off into the space? No, as it turns out, no matter where on Earth the object is, the planet’s gravitational pull will always draw it toward the center of the planet. In this case “up” means “away from the Earth” and “down” means “toward the center of the Earth.”

It can be demonstrated with these simple experiments.

  1. Wrap a tennis ball with a few rubber bands, ask your child to put a finger under the rubber band and gently pull away from the ball. Repeat the experiment on all sides of the ball. The rubber band will act like gravity.
    My 5-year-old upgraded this experiment: replace tennis ball with an apple and finger with LEGO minifigures.
  2.  Experiment with a balloon and static electricity. Rub a balloon with a wool cloth or your hair to create static electricity, then attract small pieces of paper to the surface of the balloon. Explain to your students that the Force is keeping pieces of paper on the surface of the balloon.

Newton described gravity, but he didn’t know how it worked. “Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws, but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers,” he admitted.

For over 200 hundred years nobody truly considered what that might be, until in 1915 an agent causing gravity was described by none other than Albert Einstein. According to his theory, gravity is much weirder.  It’s a natural consequence of mass’s existence in space.

Well, this just begs for a General Relativity Explained to 5-Year-Olds post, don’t you think?


Professor Astro Cat: our current obsession. 

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As a mom of extreme outlier, I struggle to find fun, colorful and INFORMATIVE children’s books for my kids.

A few weeks ago the Scientist casually asked me about black holes, gravitational waves and Einstein’s work. Easy enough task, right? While researching the topics and trying to simplify the language, I put “quantum physics for 5 year olds” and stumbled upon Dr. Dominic Walliman’s TEDxEastVan video Quantum Physics for 7 Year Olds. 5, 7…close enough. 

That lead me to his YouTube channel and I stayed up all night perusing the videos. 

That, in term, lead me to Amazon where I bough all the children’s books he wrote. Oops, that wasn’t the plan, I only wanted to purchase one, but kept slipping and falling onto the “buy” button. Repeatedly. 

Today we read Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures. My wiggly kid who is NEVER still and is ALWAYS moving…sat still, barely breathing, with his eyes wide open for 2 hours. It a miracle!!!!

I share our read-aloud wiggly struggles and strategies to improve the experience here
Now please excuse me while I go out and patiently wait for our fabulous UPS driver by the road!  He is delivering these today: 

Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventures

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System

Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space

Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey

What are your favorite children’s books? Bonus points if your gifted or 2e learner is mesmerized by them. 

Reading aloud to wiggly kids

Research shows that reading aloud to young children from the day they’re born is the single most important thing parents can do to prepare their kids for learning and reading on their own. It helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, phonics, storytelling and comprehension, and simply a familiarity and appreciation for the written word. It also fosters empathy, and encourages social and emotional bonding between parent and child. (See www.ReadAloud.org for more information and research.)

An award-winning author Emilie Buchwald said “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” An avid reader myself, I have always dreamed of perfectly peaceful snuggles during our hours-long read-aloud adventures. Who doesn’t like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and read, read, read?

My kids, apparently. They’re wiggly and full of energy, to say the least. I often joke that we read AT them, not TO them. Many attempts to make them sit still ended in tears, meltdowns, self-deprecating comments and aversion to story time. What was I doing wrong?


I was conditioned to believe that good listeners sit perfectly still, hands folded in their lap, listening ears turned on and eyes wide open. After all, fidgeting while being read to can seem rude.

With constant nagging, “Sit down, sit still, stop wiggling, stop fidgeting,” the kids  were spending ALL their mental energy trying to keeping their bodies still and could not concentrate on the story.  Attempts to build early literacy through reading aloud were detracting from my boys’ enjoyment of the books. We had to find a better way to enjoy reading together, so we came up with the compromise.

If you have been following our Reading Snowflakes Challenge (#readingsnowflakes  on  Facebook and Instagram pages,) you have noticed that my kids always have some kind of project that keeps their hands (or mouths!) occupied during reading times. To make read-aloud sessions a positive experience, I read, they listen and keep themselves busy with quiet activities during reading times.

These are some of out favorite activities:

  • drawing or doodling in the journal
  • playing with playdough or slime
  • building with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks
  • creating with magnets
  • working on a puzzle
  • creating shapes on geoboard
  • finding a way out of mazes
  • building with toothpicks, pipe cleaners, marshmallows, dry noodles, etc
  • playing single player logic games (Shape By Shape, Q-bitz, Rush Hour and others)
  • exploring sensory bins (salt, sand, beans, chickpeas, water beads, shaving cream)
  • scissor practice (this is our favorite activity this winter! We have soooooo many beautiful snowflakes created during reading times!!)
  • acting out scenes from the book

How to maximize read aloud time:

  • let the kids explore the books on their own, even if they are not fluent readers yet.
  • read aloud in the morning,
  • read during meal times,
  • explore story time at the local library or bring a book to read during playdates,
  • have a tea party (poetry tea time became our favorite activity!)
  • OUTSOURCE! listen to audio books and podcasts in the car.

What read-aloud tips or activities do you have? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.