Whenever there is a storm the kids will sit and watch from the window as the lightning puts on its display in the air. It’s fascinating to watch and the kids love seeing how it displays differently so with our weather science topic we decided to see if we could make some lightning to see how this natural phenomenon actually works. So here you go a simple science experiment to do to show lightning.

Weather Science Balloon Lightning Pinterest Image

What is Lightning?

Lightning is an electric current that flows between the earth or object on the earth and the cloud. It’s produced because a cloud becomes charged due to the friction of the water particles moving up and down and hitting each other. The cloud becomes charged with electricity.

Because electricity is made up of positive protons and negative electrons these separate out into protons at the top of the cloud and electrons at the bottom. Much like a magnet where opposites attract underneath the cloud becomes positively charged as well.

photograph of a lightning strike against a dark purple sky with a silhouette of trees and buildings at the bottom

Where something sticks up – like a church tower, tree or person the protons on the surface of the earth concentrate and draw the electrons from the bottom of the cloud down.

Eventually they connect and a current flows – the lightning strike that you see.

How can we Produce Lightning

We experience something similar to a lightning strike fairly regularly. It’s basically static electricity working and you experience your own mini storm when ever you get an electric shock.

Think about when you walk bare feet along a carpet your body builds up a negative charge and then when you touch something that is metal or positively charged (another person) you experience the electric shock or mini lightning strike.

We can use the same principles to actually see lightning working. We’ve got a fun experiment using just 2 pieces of equipment that you can use to make lightning.

Want to learn more about the weather? Why pick up some of our best weather and meteorological books for kids and have a read.

Lightning Experiment with a Ballon

Our first experiment is going to involve you in a dark room with a balloon and a metal fork or spoon!

You’re going to need to make sure the room is dark and dry – doing this is our laundry room at home really didn’t work that well the air was too moist and warm especially after running the dryer.

Materials for a Simple Lightning Experiment

  • Balloon
  • Metal Fork or spoon

How to do the Balloon Lightning Experiment

little boy rubbing a balloon on his head  to create static electricity with his hair
  1. Blow up the balloon and tie it off
  2. Rub it over your hair this will create the static charge on the balloon
  3. Turn off the lights
  4. Bring your fork or spoon gently towards the balloon
  5. Watch the sparks between then

You can recharge your balloon any time by rubbing it on your head again.

Books about Lightning and Storms for Kids

We have included affiliate links to some of the products and resources as an associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.

We try and extend our learning by reading around there subject here’s some book about lightning and storms we recommend.

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Author
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, high school teacher and mum. Realising that life doesn't have to be put on hold and you don't just have to survive whilst the kids are young she shares ideas to inspire you to LIVE with the kids, with activities to do together, recipes to cook and enjoy and family travel to make memories to last a lifetime.

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