Science at Home: Paper Bridge

Here is a little construction experiment… can you get a toy car to drive over a sheet of paper without the car and the paper falling down? A little science experiment for kids for you to do at home, that explores strength of materials as well as construction.

As mentioned previously… doing science experiments at home with kids, isn’t always about the answers, about exploring, observing and asking questions. Frequently, it is difficult to explain exactly why things are happening, but looking and discussing is a start.

Bridge construction

So we constructed our “pylons” from Lego (that in itself kept The Boy busy and working out his maths.. how many pieces did he still need to make the second pylon the same height?)

Then we placed the paper. Will the car go over? What do you think?

The boy guessed “No”:

paper bridgeAnd indeed the car fell down.

So, what can we do to the paper to make it “stronger”?

What if we fold it 4 times over? Surely “4 layers will make it strong enough”?

We tried.. no. The car still fell down. Why is that?

The boy answered “it is still bendy, Mummy”.

How can we make it less bendy? I suggested to The Boy to make a “concertina”. The boy got cracking.

Science for kids

We left a “path in the middle” for the car (Daddy’s idea! Love how he got interested and involved too).

And guess what happened:

science for kids strength of materials

Explaining the Science? Well there is a lot of science I remember from High School – about forces and vectors – clearly that isn’t appropriate to work out with a 5 year old.

But we discussed how the paper was “bendy” before and how the folds gave the paper “structure” and stop the paper from bending. But that you needed lots of folds to give the paper enough support. We also looked at the directions of the fold – i.e. that we were folding the paper “up and down” and that that “somehow” gave the paper more strength too”.

Overall, The Boy was impressed how something “weak” like paper, that flops about, could hold not one car, but two or even three.

It gave us the opportunity to discuss how when you use something in a different way, it has different “properties”.

Watch more below! And hop over to Inspiration Laboratories for links to the other activities mentioned:


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