7 Exciting Projects for Teaching Kids about Electric Circuits

Have you ever wondered what happens when you flip on a light switch or turn on the TV? What does flipping the switch or pushing a remote control button do?

In both instances, you’re completing an electric circuit so that a current of electrons can flow through the wires.

We’re here to help you find the perfect simple circuit project for your class or family. Whether you’re looking for information for lesson planning or a parent looking for a science fair project, these are great projects to get you started.

But first, let’s start off with the basics.

What are Electric Circuits?

Imagine a walk through the woods on a path. Your purpose might be to photograph birds or to set up your campsite.

A circuit is a type of path that electricity travels on, to get from one spot to the next. Parts of this path are hooked together in order to use electricity for some type of job or work.

Electric circuits usually include the following parts:

  • Power Source (cell)
  • Wires (conductors)
  • Device to be Powered (also called load or resistor)
  • Switch

Power sources can include batteries for small circuits or a local power plant for an electrical circuit in your home. Metal wires are conductors that move electricity along the path. They are usually covered in plastic for safety. Devices to be powered are also referred to as the load or resistor. They can include things like light bulbs, buzzers, or different types of motors. A switch allows the flow of electricity along the path to start or stop.

There are different types of electric circuits. In this article, we’re mostly discussing simple circuits.

A simple circuit is an electric circuit that contains a single power source (like a battery), load (like a light bulb), and a switch.

In some of the projects below, you’ll see examples of different types of circuits too, including a parallel circuit and a series circuit.

What is an Electric Circuit Diagram?

An electric circuit diagram is sort of like a map of the path traveled by the electricity or electrons. Instead of showing a picture of parts like batteries or lightbulbs, a diagram is just a sketch of the basics shown in symbols.

Prior to starting building one of the simple circuit projects below, draw your own diagram of your simple circuit and label each component to start off the lesson.

7 Electric Circuit Project Ideas

You can do a combination of these projects & activities to teach about different types of electric circuits, or just focus on either project #1 or #7 in this list for a simple circuit project.

1. Light a Bulb

Materials (per child or team):

Experiment with the materials to make the bulb light. After it lights, draw the diagram showing all the different parts of your finished project.

Discuss:

  • Did your bulb light?
  • What order did you use to connect the parts?
  • Did electricity flow through the wire?
  • Try making a gap in, or breaking, the circuit. What happens?

2. Build a Series Circuit

Materials (per child or team):

  • D-cell battery
  • Four alligator clip leads (wires) (Buy on Amazon)
  • Two bulbs with holders
  • Knife switch

Begin by forming a single circuit with one of the bulbs as in activity #1. Try adding another bulb to be lit with just this single pathway. We call this a series circuit.

Discuss:

  • What did you notice about the light being given off after the second bulb was added? Why do you think this happened? 
  • What might occur with a third bulb?

3. Build a Parallel Circuit

Materials (per child or team):

  • D-cell battery
  • Four alligator clip leads (wires)
  • Two bulbs with holders
  • Knife switch

Experiment and Discuss:

Form your circuit with various branches as shown in the picture. 

  • What happens when you remove one of the light bulbs or turn your switch off?
  • Why do you think this happens?

4. Create Circuits out of Dough

Wires aren’t the only thing that can conduct electricity! Most play-dough can too.

A great done-for-you activity to learn about circuits is Squishy Circuits. Get creative with the type of circuits you create. You can make your own dough Christmas Tree and light it up, or build a model building complete with lights.

Materials:

Alternatively, you can make your own dough. Most play-dough is conductive, and most modeling clay is insulative.

5. Act Out Different Types of Circuits

This is a fun electric circuit activity to get kids out of their seats and interact. Great way to reinforce the lesson for Kinesthetic learners. Act out each of the different types of circuits as a group.

Materials and Participants:

  • Group of children
  • Adult or chosen leader
  • Small objects for each child, such as erasers, etc.

The leader plays the part of the battery, and the others play the parts of the wire conductors. Stand in a circle to show a series circuit. Each child holds an object to represent the electricity, or electrons, in the wire. Pass the objects to show the flow of electricity! Brainstorm how a broken circuit or a switch may be expressed. Brainstorm how a parallel circuit might be shown. 

6. How to Build a Buzzer

Materials:

  • Wire
  • 9-volt battery with holder
  • Electric buzzer
  • Thumbtacks
  • Clothespin
  • Wire stripper tool
  • Electrical tape

Your goal is to make the buzzer sound when the circuit is closed. Strip plastic at the ends to expose the individual metal wires. Connect one wire to the positive end of the battery and the other to the negative terminal. Wrap with electrical tape to avoid the wires touching. 

Attach the other ends to the buzzer, with each individual wire touching a buzzer terminal. Wrap with electrical tape. Make a switch out of the clothespin and two thumbtacks, inserting it midway on a length of wire. Does your buzzer sound when the clothespin is closed and stop when it is opened?

7. Build a Simple Circuit Game

Materials:

  • Wire
  • Electrical tape
  • 9-volt battery
  • LED light or buzzer
  • Wire stripper tool

Strip the ends of your wires to varying lengths. Bend some ends to make loops and the others into zig zags.

Attach one short end to the light or buzzer and another to the battery. Wrap your connections with electrical tape.

The goal of the game: guide your loop around the bent wires without touching, which would make a complete circuit and light the light or buzz the buzzer!

What is your favorite activity to teach electric circuits? We’d love to hear about your simple circuit projects in the comments!

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