Sound is all around us. It’s what makes movies more exciting or helps us stay safe as we move about throughout our day. Sounds help us communicate with our loved ones and compose our favorite music. Our ears, although fragile, have an incredible capacity for distinguishing various sounds as well as indicating their directionality. But how does it all work? Explore this collection of 20 kid-friendly activities to discover the science of sound!
1. Water Glass Xylophone
Empty eight glass soda bottles or jars. Refill each bottle with various amounts of water to form a musical scale. Ask students to predict how bottles with less water vs more water will sound when tapped. Students can test their predictions by using a spoon to “play” their newly-formed instruments.
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2. Musical Bottles
Again, fill eight glass soda bottles with different levels of water. This time, have students gently blow across their bottles. Alternatively, a similar effect can be achieved by pouring a cup of water into a crystal wine glass and running one’s fingers around the rim.
Learn More: National Geographic
3. Bouncing Confetti
Make sound waves “visible” with this activity. Rubberband a piece of saran wrap over a bowl. Place sequins or paper confetti on top. Then, strike a tuning fork on a surface and place it on the edge of the bowl. Watch what happens to the confetti!
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4. Ringing Fork
This is such a fun sound experiment. Have your students tie a fork in the middle of a long piece of string. Then, they can tuck both ends of the string into their ears and strike the fork on a surface. They’ll be surprised by the sound intensity!
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5. Water Whistles
Your students can make a simple musical instrument with a straw and a cup of water. Have them partially cut the straw and bend it at a right angle; placing it in the cup of water. Instruct them to blow steadily across the straw while removing it from the water and listen for a whistling sound.
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6. Balloon Amplifier
In this simple hands-on activity, have your students tap on an inflated balloon and describe the noise level. Then, they can tap the balloon next to their ears. The noise level will have changed! The difference in sound is due to the air molecules being more tightly packed and better conductors than the outside air.
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7. Mystery Tubes
In this sound science experiment, students will learn about timbre. Rubber band a piece of paper over one end of a cardboard tube. Students can then fill it with dried rice, coins, or a similar object and cover the other end. Have them then test their accuracy of sound decoding by asking other students to guess what’s inside!
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8. Slinky Sound Waves
Stretch a slinky across the room. Ask a student to move one and talk about how it produces “waves” like invisible sound waves. Then, have students play with making the waves bigger or smaller. Ask them if they think bigger waves correspond with a soft or loud sound.
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9. Silent or Loud Sound
This is a great hands-on activity for toddlers to explore the kinds of sounds different objects make. Pick out a variety of small objects. Ask toddlers to place objects one by one in a metal tin with a lid and shake them. They can then listen to the variety of sounds made.
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10. Who Has It?
Test students’ origin of sound skills with this simple game. Students must close their eyes. Then, you can place a squeaky toy in someone’s hand. When you ask them to open their eyes, the child squeaks the toy and everyone has to guess who made the loud sound.
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11. Sound Wave Machine
This video depicts how to build a model of waves using skewers, gumdrops, and tape. After introducing the idea of sound waves, students can see how they change depending on the amount of energy introduced. Pull the model back out for the light unit.
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12. DIY Tonoscope
Use some basic household supplies to make a toposcope i.e. a visual model of waves. As each pitch sounds, these simple instruments allow sand to rearrange itself. Different kinds of sounds will produce different patterns.
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13. Craft Stick Harmonica
Place two small pieces of plastic straw between two large popsicle sticks. Tightly rubber band everything together. Then, when children blow in between the sticks, the straws will vibrate to produce sound. Move the straws to change the pitch.
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14. Straw Pan Flutes
Tape several large straws together lengthways. Then, carefully cut each straw to a different length. As students blow across the straw, they will notice differences in sounds. This website even includes “composition sheets” for these simple instruments.
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15. Hearing Underwater
In this informal science activity, students will learn how sound changes. Ask students to tap two metal utensils together and describe the sound that is produced. Then, cut the bottom off of a large plastic water bottle and place it in the water. Tap the utensils underwater and have learners describe the new sound!
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16. Tin Can Sound Experiment
This is an informal science activity of the classic telephone. Poke a hole in two tin cans and string a piece of yarn between them. See how the sound travels between buddies using tin cans or waxed paper cups as telephones.
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17. Seed Matching Game
In this sound-related activity, students can test their accuracy of sound decoding. Have students match different seeds by placing them in opaque jars. They can close the jars and predict what sound each jar will make when shaken. Students can then close their eyes and try to guess which jar is being shaken based on the sound they hear.
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18. Eerie Noises
The origins of sounds that scare children in movies may be surprising. Help them explore these eerie noises with this activity station. Replicate an owl with an empty bottle or a wailing sound with a wine glass.
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19. Singing Glasses
In this activity, students will slide a wet finger around the edge of a crystal wine glass until it vibrates. Ask them to describe the differences in sound between various sizes of glasses and differing amounts of water.
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20. Sound Amplifier
Use two plastic cups and a toilet paper tube to build an amplifier. This would be a fun sound-related brain teaser for an activity station and is perfect for teenagers to use when exploring sound!
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