Potential Energy Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:04 Potential Energy
  • 0:22 Elastic Potential Energy
  • 0:50 Chemical Potential Energy
  • 1:13 Gravitational Potential Energy
  • 1:28 Other Examples
  • 2:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donald Nicolas
In this lesson, you'll learn about types of potential energy, including elastic, chemical, and gravitational. You'll also learn the difference between potential energy and kinetic energy.

Potential Energy

'You have a lot of potential!' If you've heard someone say this, it's because you can do something that you haven't done yet. Potential energy is energy that is stored, or not yet used.

Energy can be put into two main groups: potential energy and kinetic energy. Keep reading to find out about specific types of potential energy.

Elastic Potential Energy

Elastic potential energy is the energy stored in something when you push, pull, or force it out of shape. If you want to see how it works, try this experiment. Stretch a rubber band back with your fingers. Before you let it go, that energy is potential, but once you let it go, the energy is kinetic, or energy by virtue of motion.

A spring is also an example of elastic potential energy. When you push down on the spring, the energy is potential because it can move or bounce up once you let it go.

Chemical Potential Energy

A battery is an example of chemical potential energy, which is the energy something stores because of its chemical makeup. Inside a battery, there are chemicals that are only used when they're needed. When you put a battery inside a battery-powered toy car, nothing happens until you turn on the switch. This is because the battery's energy is potential. When you turn on the switch, the energy turns into kinetic energy because the battery's energy is being used.

Gravitational Potential Energy

With gravitational potential energy, an object has potential energy based on its distance from the ground. For example, a book might be on top of a high surface, like a shelf. The book has gravitational potential energy because it could fall to the floor from the shelf, due to the force of gravity.

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