Have you ever rubbed a balloon on your jumper and then stuck it to a wall? Or touched a metal object like a car door or shopping trolley and felt a sharp shock in your hand? Does your hair stand up on end when you pull on a polyester jumper?  All these things happen because of static electricity.  Static electricity is when an electrical charge builds up on an object and stays in the same place for some time.

Materials are made up of atoms which contain tiny particles ( electrons ) with a negative charge. The surfaces of some objects, like balloons can steal electrons from other materials or objects making them negatively charged. For example, when you rub a balloon on your hair, electrons are transferred from your hair to the balloon, giving your hair a positive charge and the balloon a negative change. Particles with opposite charges are attracted to each other, which makes your hair stick to the balloon.

There are several ways you can demonstrate static electricity.


Picking up tissue paper


  • Tissue paper
  • Balloon
  • Woolly jumper or head of hair


Learning Outcomes

  • Understand what static electricity is and how it is created.
  • To be able to create static electricity using different materials




  • Cut up the tissue paper into small pieces.
  • Blow up a balloon and rub it on a jumper or hair. Hold the balloon above the tissue paper and watch the paper jump up!

This happens because the negatively charged balloon attracts positively charged objects.


Extension ideas

Cut the tissue paper into shapes, perhaps frogs and challenge a friend to make the frogs jump using just a balloon.

Investigate how strong the pull from the balloon is by using different types of paper. Try tissue paper, crepe paper, normal paper and card. Is the pull of the balloon strong enough to lift them all?


More static electricity investigations

Roll a can

Try to roll a drinks can using static electricity. Place the can on a smooth surface, charge up your balloon and hold it close to the can. The can should move towards the balloon.


Move a balloon

Hang a balloon from the ceiling using string. Rub a second balloon on your hair and slowly move it towards the hanging balloon. What happens?


Top Tips

The balloon activity can easily be themed to fit the season. Try jumping leaves in autumn, snowballs in winter, and butterflies in spring.


Did you know lightening is also caused by static electricity?