Opening up the world of pressure

Pressure is one of those topics that I had to think about how to start to open up to my child. We experience pressure in many ways each days. Air pressure is connected with the weather. I feel the pressure of a child in different ways depending on whether it is in one point as an elbow, or knees, in the stomach or a full-body hug. We have discussed this in our house a few times. Usually it is discussed after said knees or elbows have applied a lot of pressure on any soft tissue of a parent. So we decided to experiment with it using balloons. For this experiment you need a few balloons (depending on how many you have and are willing to pop). Also you need a pencil and maybe a sharpener. Also, hearing protection is advisable especially if your child is sensitive to loud noises. Time wise you need about 20-30 minutes.

Play with pressure and balloons

Playing with pressure and balloons.

First: gather supplies. If you have a lot of balloons, allow the child to choose the colours to be used. Be sure to explain that they may pop.

Second: blow the balloons. At this time, if there is no time pressure, letting the child first play with the balloons is a good idea.

Third: start to experiment.

  1. Ask the child to press on the balloon with their whole hand as hard as they can. If they are sensitive to sounds, then placing the hearing protection on can give them courage to do this. The balloon most likely will not pop. Pay attention to how deep the hand goes into the balloon and how much the shape of the balloon changes as it stretches to the sides in response to the applied pressure.
  2. Ask the child to press on the balloon with the blunt end of the pencil. The pencil will go much deeper and the overall shape will change less. There is more pressure under the blunt end of the pen, but as it is still applied over a bigger area than in the next step, the balloon won’t pop. Or at least it did not pop in our experiment.
  3. Press the sharp end of the pencil onto the balloon. In our experiment I did this as said child preferred to press her hands on her ears in anticipation to the balloon popping. I first pressed the blunt end and then the sharp end. It takes much less pressure for the balloon to pop when pressing the sharp end to the balloon. The reason for this is that pressure is not only the force used but also the size of the area where the pressure is applied. The sharp end of the pencil is a very small surface area so it directs all that applied force onto that tiny sharp top and that is enough to pop the balloon.
  4. Finally I asked my kid to stand on the balloon and also I sat on the balloon first by myself and then my kid came to sit on top of me. On both occasions we placed our weight on the balloon very slowly to allow time for it to react by not popping. I was a bit surprised that it did not pop. But I did not dare to bounce on the ball.

So, as these experiments show, pressure is affected by the force used (or applied) and the size of the area it is applied with. This is why having a child sit on my stomach feels much nicer than having that child place the same amount of weight on an elbow burrowing far deeper into my stomach than what feels comfortable.

If you try these experiments at home and your child asks questions, please let me know what types of questions they ask in the comment section so I can further develop these instructions. If you have questions about these experiments or instructions, leave me a comment and I will answer and also improve these instructions. Also, please remember like and share if you find this useful.

Copyright text and images: Satu Korhonen. You are free to try these experiments out, use them in your teaching. But instead of copying the text or images, link back to this page.


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