Last updated 22/03/2023

Mini Scientist – Which material can the wind blow or move most easily?

Different types of paper and card tied to a cardboard tube with string.

This experiment is suitable for children aged 3 and up but can be adapted for younger children by simplifying it.

You will need:

  • Cardboard tube/s.
  • String.
  • Different types of card and paper, for example: tissue paper, printer paper, thin card, corrugated card.
  • Scissors.

Setting up the experiment

Cut the card and paper into the same size pieces. Make a hole in the end of each and use the string to tie them to the tube. If it is not very windy, you could use different thicknesses of string and thread instead (for example, sewing thread, embroidery thread, wool, shoelace). If it is very windy, you could use equal sized plastic bottles with different amounts of water in them.

How to do the experiment with the children

– Before the experiment

Ask the children how we can tell how hard the wind is blowing. For example, if it is only a light breeze, only small things will move (like leaves), in a strong wind, bigger things will move (like branches).

Making a prediction

When doing an experiment, we usually only have one thing that is different between the things we are testing. Let the children explore the materials. Ask the children some questions. There are some below that you could use and the possible answers.

  • What is the same about these things? (The size, the length, the width, the length of the string, they are all tied to the tube.)
  • What is difference between these things? (The thickness, the bendiness, the colour, the weight.)
  • Which will the wind blow the most easily?
  • Why do you think that? (It is lighter, it is thinner.)

Some children may be at the stage that they will say something like, ‘the paper will blow in the wind’, or ‘the wind will move it’. This is fine, as it is their experiment. Remember to tailor the experiment to your child’s level of understanding. In this case, one piece of paper is sufficient!

Testing the prediction

Now work with the children to work out how you are going to test the prediction. Ask them question like:

  • How will we test this? (Take it outside in the wind, blow on it, fan it.)
  • How will we know which one is blowing the easiest? (It will go higher, it will flap more.) (The answer to this has to be something everyone can observe – ‘better’ might be different for each person as it is based on opinion, it should be something like, higher, faster, etc.)

Doing the experiment

Let the children carry out their experiment according to their plan. Encourage them to observe and describe what is happening. If you want, note down your results or draw a picture.

Talk about what the experiment showed us

Ask the children:

  • What happened?
  • Was our prediction right?
  • If not, have you changed your mind about what makes a material easy for the wind to blow?
  • Do you think anything else might make a material easy or difficult for the wind to blow?

Extending the experiment

If the children have enjoyed the experiment, ask them if they could change a different thing about their material. For example, instead of the same size but different materials, they could test same material but different sizes. (Or if you are using plastic bottles, same volume of water but different sized/shaped bottles). Be willing to try out whatever they suggest – if they test different coloured but otherwise identical pieces of paper and discover that they react the same, that is still a valid thing to discover.

You could also ask them if their way of testing could be improved. Perhaps a fan indoors with a steady flow of air is better than gusty wind outdoors. Perhaps ‘flappiness’ isn’t the best way to record how much the wind is moving an object.

If they have had enough, you can simply thread your tube onto a branch and just let it blow in the wind.

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