Snow means sledding! Not only is sledding fun, but with each giggle and grin as the kids fly down the hills, there’s also an opportunity to talk about the science of sledding.
Just What Is the Science of Sledding?
For starters, as the kids sit in the sled at the top of the hill, there’s potential energy. With a push it suddenly becomes kinetic energy as the sled starts to fly down hill.
Then there’s Newton’s first law of motion. It states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. This is easy for even very young kids to understand as they sit at the top of the hill, waiting patiently (or not so patiently) and not moving until mom or dad gives them that little push. I repeated Newton’s law several times for my children as they waited for that push on our last sledding excursion. By then end of the day they were quoting it right back to me.
Newton’s first law also states an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.
I asked the kids what they thought could make the sled stop. They both mentioned that running into something would make it stop. (One of my son’s favorite ways to stop, no doubt.) We talked about how the grass poking up from the snow could also affect the sled.
Which brings me to friction. Sledding is a perfect hands-on opportunity to talk about friction! They both noticed that the sled stopped faster if it ran over a lot of grass or the rope that was tied to the sled versus just running over the smooth snow. It wasn’t hard for them to figure out that the snow caused less friction than the grass. You could easily take it a step further and challenge older kids to try to find ways to further reduce friction on the sled. Could rubbing wax on the bottom of the sled help?
After an hour or so of sledding, we threw in one more bit of science. I challenged them to try different positions on the sled to see if how they sat on the sled would affect how far it went. We had some crazy positions!
It didn’t take long for them to figure out that if they laid flat on the sled they would go further than if they sat up.
It was easy for me to tie this into my son’s favorite thing: cars! We talked about race cars and what his fastest Hot Wheels look like and that by laying down on the sleds they were cutting down on the wind resistance.
By then it was time to go in for some much deserved hot chocolate!
The next time you have snow, be sure to check out some of the science of sledding with the kids!
And when the temps dip below freezing, explore a bit of freezing science, too!