Static Electricity Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

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  • 0:04 Electrons
  • 0:48 What Causes Static…
  • 1:35 Lightning Example
  • 2:04 Dryer Example
  • 2:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dacia Upkins

Dacia has taught all core elementary subjects for 14 years with a Master's degree in Urban Teacher Leadership.

In this lesson, you'll learn what is happening when you touch a doorknob and get shocked. You'll also learn how this is related to large, powerful bolts of lightning.


Let's say you're at a party, where there are tons of balloons bouncing around. Naturally, the first thing you do is grab one, rub it against your best friend's hair, and watch as the balloon sticks to their head for the rest of the day. You've just discovered static electricity!

What just happened here?

Well, know that all things are made of matter, and matter is made up of teeny things called atoms, which are the building blocks of matter. Inside of atoms, there are even smaller particles called neutrons, protons, and electrons.

Now electrons can jump from one atom to another, like frogs do from lily pad to lily pad. This jumping is called electricity. There are two types of electricity: current electricity and static electricity. This lesson focuses on static electricity.

What Causes Static Electricity?

Static electricity occurs when there is a build-up of electrons on something, giving it an electric charge. The electrons will then be attracted to something with less electric charge, so they'll jump to an object that has fewer electrons. It's like students who are waiting for the bus home. If the bus they usually take home is full, they will look for an emptier bus that has more space.

Although you may love shuffling around the house in warm, fuzzy socks, you might get nervous every time you touch a doorknob, because you may be shocked. This shock is an example of static electricity.

As you walk across the floor with your socks rubbing against the carpet, electrons jump from the carpet to hitch a ride on you. Eventually those electrons get too crowded, and when you touch the doorknob, all the extra electrons jump from you onto the doorknob. The shock you feel is the static electricity. Ouch!

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