We have a no screen policy Monday through Friday. Normally, this is fine. The kids are in school all day, they come home, do homework, have dinner and then it’s pretty much bed time. There’s hardly any time for screens anyway.

But on school breaks, like spring break and summer vacation? The I’m booooored‘s begin at the crack of dawn. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep them at a minimum. One of my favorites is to keep a box of craft supplies on hand. I fill the box with pieces of cardboard, pompoms, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and balloons. Always balloons. There is no shortage of things the kids can do with them.

If your kids slide into the “I’m bored” funk, have them try this Balloon Cup Popper. It’s so easy to make even young kids can give it a go. Plus, you can use them to sneak in a variety of hands-on learning, including a lesson in potential and kinetic energy.

First, a quick vocabulary lesson:

Potential Energy – Energy that is stored.

Kinetic Energy – Energy a body has because it is in motion.

Here’s the teaching part – Energy can be transferred from potential to kinetic and between objects. Now, let’s see in action…

### You’ll Need:

• Cardboard Tube or Plastic Cup
• Balloon
• Scissors
• Pompoms or Marshmallows

### Step 1

Tie a knot in the balloon.

### Step 2

Cut off the top of the balloon.

### Step 3

Place the balloon over the cardboard tube. Now place a pompom inside, pull back on the balloon and let ‘er go!

### Ways to extend learning:

1. Measure how far the pompom travels.
2. Make a hypothesis about angles and test it out.
3. Shoot several pompoms and calculate the mean, median and mode for distance.
4. Play with the design to see if it improves launch. For instance, what happens if you tie the knot higher up on the balloon? Is there an effect if you use rubber bands to secure the balloon around the tube?

Now go have some fun! Oh and for a super fun lesson in kinetic energy check out Design Squad’s rubber band contest. They even teach the kids how to make a rubber band car. So cool!