A young boy creates a telephone wire out of string for his experiment recreating the first telephone


3 Cool Science Experiments For Kids Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell

Mar 13, 2018

Although the telephone might be Alexander Graham Bell’s most famous invention, earning him international recognition, he also contributed to the development of the modern world in many other ways. From planes to kites to the education of those with hearing impairments to artificial respiration, Bell certainly conducted many successful experiments!

At the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, we delve into the passions of this creator, and even recreate some of his achievements. Tetrahedral kite, anyone? You’ll have to come visit and make one for yourself!

You'll Also Love: Sink or Swim? Water Activity

Until then, here are a few simple and fun experiments you can do at home with the whole family. Just as Mr. Bell used to work on them with his grandchildren, so too would we recommend working with your little ones to complete the experiments, especially during the steps that involve matches or needles.

Make Your Own Telephone

What You'll Need

  • 2 plastic cups
  • A piece of string or fishing line that is at least 4-metres long
  • A needle or other object that can pierce a small hole 
  • A piece of fabric or wood (Optional)
  • Markers and stickers 

How It's Made

Pierce a hole in the bottom of each cup, making sure that the hole is big enough to allow string to be threaded through (this may be a job for an adult).

Thread the string through the hole of one cup, and tie a knot at the end protruding from the inside of the container (make sure the knot is securely fastened. If you are using fishing line, you will have to reinforce the knot with a piece of cloth or wood so that it does not slip out).

Take the other end of the string and repeat the process with your second cup.

This can be a good time to let younger experimenters decorate their telephone with markers or stickers! Now you’re ready to put your creation to the test. Keep one end of the telephone for yourself, and give the other to your fellow experimenter. Walk away from each other until the string is tight.

To place a call, have the person at the other end put their cup to their ear while you speak into yours. Then switch it up to hear their reply!

How to Explain the Phenomenon to a Child

When you speak, the sounds you make are created by waves, which you can imagine as vibrations or tiny twitches. You may not be able to see anything, but if you’re making noise, then you’re making waves! When you speak into the cup, your voice hits the bottom of the container, which then starts to vibrate. These vibrations travel through the taut string, from one end to the other end, and when the vibrations reach the bottom of the other container, they become waves that the other person can hear and understand. No need to shout for your fellow experimenter to hear you either – sound actually moves much better in solid objects than through the air!

You'll Also Love: Growing Gummy Candies Science Experiment

Putting an Egg into a Bottle Without Touching It

Take a look at this fun and a-little-bit-noisy experiment to see an egg squeeze into a bottle on its own!

What You'll Need

  • A hardboiled egg, without the shell
  • A bottle of milk (or something similar) with a narrow neck (the inside must be completely dry)
  • A piece of paper or paper towel
  • Matches

How It's Done

Loosely fold or crumple your piece of paper or paper towel in a long narrow shape so that it fits through the bottle opening.

Have your little one hold the egg ready to place it on top of the bottle.

This next part moves very fast, so make sure all participants are set! For the adults: Light the paper on fire and place it in the bottle. Before the fire goes out, place the egg on top of the bottle and remove your hands. 

Watch and wait for the pop sound!

How to Explain the Phenomenon to a Child

In the air all around us, there are gases we cannot see, like oxygen. In the bottle, there is also air — and therefore, oxygen.

Much like we need oxygen to breathe, a fire needs oxygen to burn. By blocking the opening of the bottle with the egg, the fire will heat the air — and when air heats inside a bottle, the pressure of gas becomes greater. Once the fire extinguishes — whether it's a match or a piece of burning paper — the air takes up less space (or contracts) and the pressure lessens.

Because air flows from high pressure to low, the air molecules around the egg outside push against the egg to help equalize the pressure inside the bottle. And because the egg is an obstacle to make equalization "easy," the air molecules end up pushing the egg into the bottle.  

You'll Also Love: What's a STEAM cart and Why Will Your Kids Love One?

Perform Magic with Water

Can water float in the air? Make your own little bit of gravitational magic by checking out this experiment!

What You'll Need

A glass of water (A plastic cup works, too)
A piece of construction paper
A pair of scissors
Enough water to fill the cup
An empty container, dish, or bowl

How It's Done

Trace a circle on your construction paper that’s roughly half an inch bigger in diameter than the brim of your cup, and cut it out.

Taking care to work over your empty basin, fill the glass with water.

Place your circle over the brim of the cup, making sure it is completely covered.

Place your hand firmly on top of your circle to hold it in place, turn the cup upside down, and very quickly and remove your hand.

What do you notice? Does it look like the water is magically floating in the air, or did it end up splashing everywhere? Sometimes it can take a few tries to get it right, so be sure to give it another shot!

How to Explain the Phenomenon to a Child

This experiment works thanks to atmospheric pressure! This pressure is all around you, meaning that the air is pushing in all directions, even if you don’t feel it — it’s what keeps your feet on the ground, instead of floating around in space! When you turn your glass upside down, the atmospheric pressure pushes the paper under the glass and prevents the water from splashing out. So in the end, it looks like water really can float on air!

Article Author Club Parka, Parks Canada
Club Parka, Parks Canada

Club Parka is a Parks Canada program for preschoolers at national parks and historic sites across the country. Kids can take part in the program online, too!

Visit parkscanada.gc.ca/Parka to download activity pages and get to know Parka, the busy little beaver who helps kids explore the world around them.

You can watch Parka weekday mornings on CBC TV following each episode of Chirp.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.