Sound Vibrations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kelli Henderson

Kelli is an elementary school teacher with a specialist degree in Early Childhood Education.

You hear many different sounds each day, but you might not know much about how sound travels. In this lesson, you will learn about sound vibrations, how sound travels, and why sounds are different.

What are Sound Vibrations?

Do you ever wonder how you hear all the different sounds around you? Every day, you hear sounds when you talk to your family and friends, listen to music, go to the playground, and do so many different things! Well, you hear all of these sounds because of sound vibrations, invisible waves that move rapidly up and down, and that our brain reads as sound.

Sound waves are invisible, but they are waves that move up and down much like these.
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Did you know that the vocal chords in your throat vibrate? That's how they create sound so that you can talk and sing! Put your hand up to your throat and then sing a silly song. You can feel your vocal cords vibrating as the air you push upward moves them rapidly back and forth to create sound.

The Science of Sound

All sounds are produced by vibrations--everything from clapping your hands to playing an instrument to knocking on a door. So how does a sound start? It begins with some type of movement or event, like slapping your hands together quickly, plucking the string of a guitar, or banging your fist against a door.

When an event like this happens, it causes the molecules of the object--the tiny units of matter that make it up--to vibrate. This causes other molecules around it to vibrate as well, and the vibrations continue moving through the molecules until they reach your ear. The vibrations then travel into your brain, which understands these vibrations as sound.

The Speeds of Sound

Not all things are made from the same material, and sound vibrations travel through each material in a unique way. Liquids, solids, and gasses are all different forms of matter, and vibrations move through them at different speeds.

For example, sound travels faster through solids than it does through gasses. And you may be surprised to hear that sound travels about four times faster in water than it does in the air. It all has to do with the molecules--the closer the molecules are together, the faster they can move from one to the next.

This whale is making sound waves that move four times faster through water than they would through the air.
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