Are you looking for some easy, low-prep ideas to keep the kids busy and having fun?
You probably know that STEM activities are perfect for kids of all ages. But what about kids that love art?
Pendulum painting is a super easy way to combine STEM and art (also known as STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, math).
Your child will love building this simple pendulum and using it to create their very own colorful works of art.
This pendulum art activity is perfect to do outside as the weather warms up for spring and summer.
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- 2 Chairs of Equal Size
- Broom Handle
- Poster Board or Large Piece of Art Paper
- Hole Punch
- 2 Paper Cups
- Sharpened Pencil
- Washable Acrylic Paint
Painting with a pendulum can be messy, which is why I suggest doing it outside. That way, when you’re finished you can just hose off any spilled paint.
If that’s not possible, you can place a cheap plastic tablecloth underneath it all to catch potential paint splatters.
Start by placing your chairs so their backs face each other. The chairs should be 2-3 feet (.6- 1 meter) apart.
Balance your broom handle across the chair backs.
Next, use your hole punch to make 2 holes at the top of one of your cups. The cups should be directly opposite each other.
Use the point of your pencil to make a small hole in the center of the cup’s bottom. (If you don’t have paper cups and have to use plastic ones like we did, have an adult do this step using the tip of a sharp knife.)
Thread yarn through both of the holes at the top of the cup. Tie the cup to the center of the broom handle so it hangs about 6 inches (15 cm) from the ground.
Use a piece of tape to seal the hole on the bottom of the cup for now.
Squirt some acrylic paint into your other paper cup. Add about twice the amount of water to the paint and stir it together with your pencil. You want the paint to be runny.
Once it is mixed, pour the paint into the bucket on your pendulum (the hanging cup).
Place your posterboard under your pendulum.
Remove the tape from the bottom of the cup. Then hold onto the yarn and start swinging the cup gently in a circular motion. (See below for a different way to move it.)
Let go of the yarn and watch your pendulum as it creates art.
Your paint should form a colorful swirl on the poster board, marking the pendulum’s path.
If your paint is too thick it will look like splotches that are spread far apart instead of a swirl of smaller dots. This is what happened with our blue paint in the photo below. You can easily correct this by stiring in a bit more water.
How Does a Pendulum Work
Pendulum’s use a weight to work. In this activity your cup of paint is acting as the weight.
When the weight of a pendulum is hanging straight down and not moving, it is in its equilibrium position.
When you move the paint cup out of equilibrium and let go of it, it swings back and forth due to the force of gravity.
Friction steals a bit of energy from the pendulum with each swing, slowing it down until it eventually stops.
This motion, along with the dripping paint, makes this a fun and colorful STEAM activity for kids.
Extensions for the Pendulum STEM Activity
This time, instead of starting by swinging the cup in a circular motion, just pull the cup back some and let it go. This is how most pendulum’s really move. How is the pattern of the paint different?
Try changing the length of your string. How does this affect the pendulum’s motion, and the painted design?
How is your pendulum affected if you swing it faster? What if you swing it slower?
Kids of all ages will have fun with this pendulum painting STEM activity.
You may also enjoy these posts:
- Pendulum Salt Painting
- How to Make Crystal Egg Geodes
- Engineer a Paper Plate Water Wheel
- Making Musical Instruments (STEAM Activity)