Do You Have Flow? Investigating Electricity and Circuits in Early Childhood with Technology Tools

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Image courtesy of Manierre Elementary School

Image courtesy of Manierre Elementary School

Do You Have Flow?

By Jenna Herdzina and Jessica Kubacki, TEC Center Interns 2016-17

Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center and Edward Neisser Library hosted a TEC Playdate for the Erikson community. The TEC Center demoed activities to do with young children to teach them about electricity and circuits. These 20 activities can be done in less than 20 minutes, with under $20 worth of supplies or with tools borrowed from the TEC Center Tools Collection.

Educators, parents and service providers can help children understand their environment better by fostering interest in electricity, but do you, yourself understand electricity and circuits in your everyday life?

A couple of basic concepts of electricity:

  • A circuit is a closed path or loop around which an electric current flows or travels alone. A circuit is a complete path that an electrical current travels along. It can be a loop or a closed path along which the electrical current flows.
  • Current means the same thing as charge flow, the flow of electrons.
  • Power Source provides and/or produces fuel and energy to the circuit
    • Batteries, Generators, etc.
  • Load consumes the power provided by a power source
    • Light bulb, Buzzer, Appliances, etc.
  • Conductors are materials that allow electrical energy to flow freely serving as a connection between the power source and the load.
    • Silver, copper, aluminum, iron, steel, graphite, human body, etc.
  • Insulators are materials that do not allow electrical energy to flow freely (low conductance/high resistance)
    • Rubber, oil, ceramic, cotton, paper, wood, plastic, air, pure water, etc.

Types of circuits:

  • Closed: Energy flows in a complete circle or loop. Energy travels from the power source to the load and back to the power source without interruption.
  • Open: Energy does not flow because the loop is not fully connected.
  • Short: A break or interruption in the circle in which electricity stops flowing

Below is a list of supplies for all 20 activities at the TEC Center and Edward Neisser Library’s, Do you have flow? event.

Download the activities featured: final-do-you-have-flow-pdf

Energy Stick: Human Circuit Game

Graphite Pencil: Graphite Circle

9V Battery: Graphite Circle

LEDs: Graphite Circle, Play Dough Circuits intro, intermediate, advanced, LED Holiday Card, LED Wearable, Circuit Critters

Alligator Clips: Lemon Circuit, Makey Makey Piano

Light blub/ holder: Lemon Circuit

Zinc nail: Lemon Circuit

Copper nail: Lemon Circuit

Battery Pack: Play Dough Circuits intro

Bristle Bot Kit: Bristle Bots

1.5V DC Motor: ScribbleBots

Self-adhesive copper tape: LED Holiday Card, LED Wearable NOTE:3M Copper tape is pricier than others but is more reliable and we thank our friends at the Museum of Science and Industry for this pro tip)

3V Coin Cell Battery: LED Holiday Card, LED Wearable, Circuit Critters
Glue Dot Squares: LED Wearable
Self-adhesive Velcro: LED Wearable
Electrical Tape: Makey Makey DDR

Items featured from the TEC Center Tools Collection can be loaned from the Edward Neisser Library by Erikson students, alumni, faculty and staff :

Snap Circuits Beginner

Snap Circuits Jr.

LightUp Edison Kit

LightUp Tesla Kit

Makey Makey Kit

Makey Makey Go Kit

Household items used:





Recyclable Container

Rubber Band

Hot glue stick & gun



Cardboard egg carton

Pipe cleaners



Insulating Dough (see QR code to take you to video in activity guide)

Conductive Dough (see QR code to take you to video in activity guide)

AA Batteries