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Electrical Circuits Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Have you ever wondered why flipping a light switch turns on the light? In this lesson, you will learn about electrical circuits and what makes them work.

Electrons and Electricity

How do you make electricity? First, you must have electrons. The word electron was made up from the words 'electric' and 'ion'. An electron is a tiny charged part of an atom. When a stream of electrons moves through a conductor, you get electricity.

A conductor is anything that allows the flow of electrons to go through it. Common conductors include wires made of certain metals, such as copper, aluminum, gold, and silver. Materials that don't allow electricity to flow through them easily are called insulators. Rubber, wood, air, plastic, and glass are common insulators.

Circuits

The electrons have to travel, which they do in an electrical circuit. The origin of the word 'circuit' is the Latin word circuitus, which means 'circular motion'. It's kind of like a running track around a football field. If you keep running, you will end up right back where you started.

A closed circuit
circuit

Like a circle, the path of a circuit has to end at the same point at which it started, so that there are no gaps. This is called a closed circuit. If there is a gap in the circuit, the electrons can't continue on, so the circuit is broken. This is called an open circuit. Think about a train track that you might put up under your Christmas tree. If there is a piece of the track missing, the train can't make a complete loop, or circuit.

Electrical Circuits

To make an electrical circuit, you need to have several things. First, you need a power source, such as a battery. The power source gives the force that makes the electrons move. You also need a conductor, such as wires. The conductors will make the path through which the electrons will move. Finally, you need an electrical appliance, such as a light bulb or fan, that will use the electricity.

These kids built an electrical circuit to power a small fan.
fancircuit

To set up your electrical circuit, remember that the circuit must be a closed circuit so that the electrons can keep moving. The battery will have two ends, called terminals. One end is positive, and one is negative. You need to attach a wire, your conductor, to each terminal of the battery.

Attach the other end of each wire conductor to the light bulb. It is important that you use both terminals of the battery for your circuit, or the circuit will not work. If you don't have a light bulb or other device to be powered, this would be a short circuit.

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