Physics is one of the neatest topics in the physical sciences. It lets us discover truths about the world around us. By allowing children to play and explore they might just find out some of these truths on their own. Your child might just uncover the concept of center of gravity and balance while attempting to stand on one leg! Here are 3 experiments that you and your family can do at home to strengthen these observation skills.
Experiment 1: Breakdown of the Center of Mass
To study the science of balance, we need to focus on the center of mass. Mass is the assessment of how much matter something has. Matter makes up everything. Literally, everything. And the center of mass is the point in the object where the mass distributed around that point equals zero.
For the most part the center of gravity and the center of mass are exactly the same – the only time that you would see the center of gravity and center of mass expressed differently is if the object is so large that Earth’s gravity is not a constant force acting on the object – such as our Moon.
Balance the Ruler! Rulers are an easy object to balance on one of your fingers because it is instinctive to find the center of mass – which would be the middle of the ruler. Have your child see if they can locate the center of mass / center of gravity on the ruler.
Balance the Ruler: Part 2! Yay! They did it! Now, experiment with finding the center of mass with an object that has unequal weights on both sides by adding some clay to one side of the ruler. See if your child can deduce where the center of mass / center of gravity is on the ruler when the clay has been added – is the center of mass farther away from the clay side or closer?
Balancing Rocks! Now that your child understands the concept of center of mass let them experiment with balancing rocks! This is a common art form that takes a lot of skill and knowledge of how objects are weighted. Let your child find rocks from the backyard or driveway and work with them on experimenting with balancing the rocks on top of each other. Remember that creating these sculptures is perfectly fine in your yard, but when you are out in nature be sure to leave the rocks right where they are! All sorts of neat animals call the undersides of rocks home, so we want to protect their habitats by letting nature just be.