Sand Pendulum

Pendulum (5)

We snagged this idea from an old Parents magazine article, highlighting STEM projects for kids. The game provides a neat visual introduction to gravity, using the simple concept of a pendulum. Pendulums – any suspended weight that swings freely from a pivot – will always come to rest at an equilibrium position, because of gravity of course. Using colored sand makes it purely fun for kids!

Make sure to cover your work surface with a roll of craft paper or other paper, both to catch your sand designs, and to save you from a big mess at clean-up time.

To set up the pendulum, tie three strings at even intervals around a thick rubber band. Travis had fun exploring the materials while I put this step together. Older kids can help with the tying!

Pendulum (1)

Fit the rubber band tightly under the lip of a kitchen funnel. Gather the three strings together and tie in the middle so the funnel hangs evenly.

Pendulum (2)

Slip the strings over a dowel – whoops, not quite balanced yet!

Pendulum (3)

The next step was a bit tricky, since it requires two sets of hands, and my three year old had his own agenda. But ideally, have your child plug the hole at the bottom of the funnel with a fingertip while you fill it with colored craft sand.

Give the pendulum a slight push, and watch the sand go back and forth. It will swing in increasingly smaller motions until it comes to rest.

Pendulum (4)

As mentioned, ours didn’t exactly work as planned…but leftover sand sure is fun to play with!

Pendulum (6)

If you capture really pretty sand designs, please share in the comments.

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