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Since the Holidays are coming up, I thought it’d be fun to incorporate a little technology experiment into our decorating.
Building an LED Christmas tree circuit is an engaging way to introduce children to the fun of creating a simple circuit while exercising their creativity by decorating a homemade Christmas tree card.
Ready to FA-LA-LA-LA-Learn basic circuitry with a Christmas twist? Let’s get started!
How to make the LED Christmas Tree Circuit technology experiment
Supplies you will need
For this experiment, you will need the following:
- Copper tape
- Green construction paper (choose heavy paper if you want to make a card)
- Yellow LED
- 3V lithium battery
- Optional: hot glue gun, if adding the optional decorations
- Optional: ornaments out of beads, glitter, or other decorative material; garland out of pipe cleaners
Here’s a book about circuits for kids that would be great to read alongside this experiment. It starts with basics but also covers more in-depth topics for the bigger kids.
Before you start
Please watch your child around electronics, and especially watch your child around the batteries. These can be very harmful if swallowed.
Here is how to do this experiment with your child:
Step 1: Place the copper wire on the paper to make a tree
If you want to make a Christmas card, go ahead and fold your construction paper in half to represent a card.
We’re going to build our Christmas tree outline with copper tape in this step. If it’s easier, draw a simple outline with a pencil before applying the copper tape to your construction paper.
Leave an opening at the top of your tree for the LED legs to connect to the copper tape.
Step 2: Attach the LED to the top of the tree
Start by bending the LED legs outward so they make a V. Make sure you can tell which is the anode (longer leg) and the cathode (shorter leg).
Place the anode facing left and the cathode facing right. That will help you keep the positive and negative ends of the Christmas tree correct.
Sandwich each LED leg between the copper tape on the Christmas tree and another small piece of copper tape (see image).
Step 3: Decorate the tree (optional)
This step is completely optional, but it definitely adds a little spunk to your Christmas tree!
You can go all out and buy some Christmas-centric decorations for your tree (if you’re making these as Christmas cards, for example) like festive pipe cleaners, glittery stickers, glitter, and beads, or you can get creative and only use things you can find around the house.
Whichever way you choose to decorate your Christmas tree, allow your child to put on their creative hat and have fun with it.
Step 4: Light it up!
Now, for the electrical portion!
The only part to do now is to connect the electrical supply (the 3V battery) to the circuit.
If you placed your LED legs in the orientation I mentioned in Step 2, then the left side of your tree (if you’re looking at it) will supply the positive current and the right side of your tree will supply the negative current.
Identify the positive and negative sides of your 3V battery. Typically, the positive (+) side will be the portion with the writing etched into the battery.
Place a small piece of copper tape from the bottom right side of your tree and run it a little over halfway along the trunk of the tree. Place the battery, negative side down, on the copper tape.
Next, run a small piece of copper tape from the left side of the trunk and on top of the 3V battery (the positive end of the battery).
The technology behind the LED Christmas Tree Circuit experiment
This experiment teaches:
- Basic circuitry
- The Holiday season
How it works
This festive Christmas technology experiment utilizes LEDs, copper tape, and Christmas decorations to create a fun and interactive Christmas tree for the Holidays. It can be used as decoration around the house or even as a fun Christmas card!
Copper tape is conductive, which allows power to flow freely from the 3V battery to the LED light at the top of the Christmas tree. When we add the copper tape in the proper points on the 3V battery, the LED lights up.
The experiment introduces the fundamental concepts of circuits, including power sources, conductors, and components like LEDs.
It also introduces the concept of polarity by identifying the positive and negative terminals of the battery and LED.
This is a fun experiment to allow your child to get as creative as possible!
If you choose to use these as Christmas cards, it’s fun to let friends and family know that your child decorated and better yet, let your child decorate each card with that friend or family member in mind.
The Holiday season
This experiment is also a great opportunity to talk to your child about the Holiday season, the holidays your family and other families may celebrate, and some history about the Christmas tree.
Here are some fun facts about Christmas trees to get the conversation started:
- It takes a Christmas tree 7-10 years (but up to 15!) to mature to the size we see them in stores
- The first decorated tree was in 1510
- Most of the Christmas trees sold in the United States were grown in Oregon and North Carolina
I enjoyed reading this article for some of these fun facts, but there are tons more to choose from.
More science experiments that exercise creativity to try out with your child
- Fizzing Paint: Paint with a chemical reaction!
- Magic Milk: Watch colorful milk dance before your eyes in this fun experiment
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