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In today’s experiment, we’ll walk through an exciting technology experiment for kids: building conductive dough circuits.
Building a conductive dough circuit will not only ignite your child’s imagination but also help them grasp fundamental concepts of electricity and circuits.
You only need a few supplies to build a simple circuit today, so grab them and let’s get going!
How to make the Spark Curiosity Conductive Dough technology experiment
Supplies you will need
For this experiment, you will need the following:
- AA batteries
- 2 battery holders
- Electrical wires
- Wires with alligator clips
- Optional: small buzzers, motors, switches, or other electric components that can be added to the circuit
If you want to buy several of the supplies needed for this experiment in one kit, we purchased this kit that has battery holders, wires, motors, switches, and other super helpful tools to use for technology experiments.
Before you start
If you don’t have some of these supplies, don’t worry! I’ll show you a couple of modifications below.
Keep an eye on your child during this experiment, since we do not want any of the supplies needed in little mouths.
Here is how to do this experiment with your toddler:
Step 1: Connect two battery packs
The LEDs we bought have a forward voltage of a little over 3V, which only gave off a slight light when we completed the circuit. We decided to run two battery packs in series to get a brighter light.
Using one of your alligator clips, clip to the exposed end of the black (negative) wire from one battery pack and clip to the red (positive) wire on the other battery pack. You now have two battery packs running in a series!
Step 2: Add batteries
Next, let’s get some power!
Insert two AA batteries per pack.
Step 3: Insert wires from battery packs into Play-Doh
Take the red wire from one of the battery packs and insert it inside the Play-Doh. Make sure the wire is not sticking all the way through the dough; it should be settled as close to the center of the Play-Doh as possible.
Next, take the black wire from the other battery pack and insert it into the other dough ball.
Here, I’m showing a super basic circuit just to show what it should look like (minus the LED, which is the next step). But, if your child is up for it, why not get creative with our Play-Doh?
Here are a few fun ideas:
- Spell their name
- Do some math equations with it
- See how many shapes they can build with the dough
Step 4: Insert LED to complete the circuit
Now to the technology part: connecting everything and seeing what lights up!
First, let’s talk about how an LED lights up so we know where to place things. There are two legs on an LED: an anode and a cathode. The anode (the positive end of the LED) is represented by the longer leg of the LED. The cathode (the negative end) is the shorter of the two legs. When we run current through an LED, we need to be sure to connect the cathode with the negative current and the anode with the positive current.
Now, back to our experiment!
Separate the legs of the LED enough that you can place the anode in one Play-Doh shape and the cathode in the other piece of Play-Doh.
Pierce the anode into the Play-Doh with the red wire inserted inside of it. Then, pierce the cathode into the Play-Doh with the black wire inserted into it to close your circuit.
You’ve just created a circuit!
Step 5: Talk about it
Once you’ve built the circuit, we can talk about what just happened. Talk about the order that everything had to be in for it to work (and what might happen if it wasn’t in the right order).
You can also play with other components if you have them, like switches, motors, buzzers, etc. to see what they do in the circuit. Remember to adapt the activity to your child’s age and abilities. If it’s overwhelming to add the optional supplies like buzzers and motors, stick with the simple circuit we walked through above.
The technology behind the Spark Curiosity Conductive Dough technology experiment
This experiment teaches:
- Basic understanding of circuits and electricity
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Creativity and imagination
How it works
In this experiment, Play-Doh is used to create a circuit. Play-Doh contains salt and water, making it conductive and allowing electricity to flow through it.
When a battery is connected to the circuit, it provides a power source. This allows electric current to flow through the Play-Doh.
Components like LEDs can be added to the circuit to close it, which makes the LED light up.
Basic understanding of circuits and electricity
This experiment serves as a great introduction to help kids grasp fundamental concepts about circuits and electricity.
They can learn that electricity needs a complete path (circuit) to flow and that conductive materials allow electricity to pass through them (you could even switch it up and try the experiment with homemade dough without salt – see what happens!).
By experimenting with different circuit configurations and observing the behavior of the lights and/or other components, they can understand cause-and-effect relationships and the concept of closed circuits.
Problem-solving and critical thinking
Running this experiment with your child is a great way to build problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
In this experiment, we will face challenges, like making sure the dough shapes connect properly, troubleshooting when the circuit doesn’t work, or experimenting with different arrangements to get the right outcome.
While you’re going through this experiment, encourage your child to think through their observations and make adjustments to foster problem-solving skills. You could ask them questions like:
- If we take out all of our Play-Doh, what do you think will happen?
- What if we use less voltage? Do you think the lights will be brighter or less bright?
Asking these open-ended questions gives your child a chance to think through the experiment, piece by piece.
Creativity and imagination
A great aspect of this experiment is it allows your child to be as creative as they want without really harming the experiment.
They can design and shape the dough into various forms, from simple shapes to intricate sculptures. It’s a good opportunity to create fun designs and unleash their creativity!
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