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View Full Version : How do you describe gravity to a 3.5 yr old?

RBG
2003-Jul-04, 12:05 AM
I think if I could think of a simple way to introduce general relativity to her, I would. I have this thought that there are simple ways to explain how things work. Although I'm not sure my way is necessarily the easiest. (But, man, is it fun introducing this little bean to the world.)

Gravity:

Me: "Everything you see around you is actually part of a huuuuge ball that we live on."

Her: "We live on the top of the ball."

Me: "No we live on, umm, the side of the ball but something called "gravity" keeps us on the ground and from floating away or falling off." &lt;woo-wooo-wooooo... boink>

Her: "Gravity keeps us on the ground so we don't float away."

Me: "It works something like this: I take this balloon and rub it in my hair and see how it sticks to the side of this wall? Well, gravity works something like that. Not exactly the same."

(At this point I wonder if I've completely fuzzified everything.)

__________

How's that? What would be better? I'm drawing upon my tiny, little bit of knowledge of strong & weak forces. The mad scientist in me wants to figure a way to explain those attracting forces. (This kid is smart - unlike myself.)

RBG

RBG
2003-Jul-04, 12:10 AM
Dang... I just realized it would have been more appropriate to use refrigerator magnets.

R

Donnie B.
2003-Jul-04, 12:11 AM
How about something like...

"Everything, every bit of stuff, attracts every other bit of stuff. For small things like people and toys and cars, the pull is so small we can't feel it. But the Earth we live on is really big, so it pulls on us pretty hard. That's why, when we jump up, we fall back down. The Earth pulls us back."

tracer
2003-Jul-04, 12:26 AM
(Hold up globe of the Earth) " 'Down' is toward the center of the big ball, so that means for these people living over here in Australia, 'down' is this way" (point)

(Unless, of course, you're a member of the International Flat Earth Society (http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/fe-scidi.htm).)

Irishman
2003-Jul-05, 06:57 AM
I'm not sure how to explain anything to a 3.5 yr old.

I'm a little confused to what your purpose is. Are you coming at this cold? I would think it would be easier using her natural questions to shape the explanation. What part of gravity are you trying to explain?

Drop an object. See, that's gravity in action. It makes things fall. It is what you have to pull against to stand up or walk up stairs.

Everything we're made of, all stuff, has a certain amount of pull to everything else. For small objects, like a ball or ourselves or cars - even objects the size of buildings - the amount of pull is very small and not noticable. But when really really large objects, like the Earth, are involved, that tiny pull adds up to something significant. That pull is gravity.

Magnets could be used to show one type of pull. Of course, you could just end up making her think magnets use gravity.

If you want to explain the ball (how Earth is spherical), now you have a framework to start on. Now you can get out the globe.

GarethB
2003-Jul-05, 11:58 AM
It's easy. Gravity: It's not just a good idea, it's a force of nature! You can substitute it for all sorts of things, like this. Lemmings: they're not just a good idea, they're a force of nature! See how easy that was? :D

Colt
2003-Jul-05, 06:57 PM
The best thing I can think of to do is to find the episode of Bill Nye on the internet or at a video store and let him watch it. Then talk to him about it. :P -Colt

The Supreme Canuck
2003-Jul-05, 07:45 PM
I hate Bill Nye. We watched him every year in science class up to and including grade 10! :x Evidently we have education problems up here.

But it probably would be a good thing to show a child.

Humphrey
2003-Jul-06, 04:42 AM
Hey! i liked Bill Nye the Science guy! :evil:

The Supreme Canuck
2003-Jul-06, 04:44 AM
So did I. I just don't like him replacing my science teacher. I also don't like the fact that his shows seem to be at the same level as Provincial Curriculum. Kind of scary...

Schultze
2003-Jul-06, 02:26 PM
Explaining is not the difficult part. It's the understanding of the information. I seriously doubt that even the brightest 3-1/2 year-old can understand the concept of gravity.

The easiest explanation at this stage in the youngsters life would be just to drop an object and say this is what gravity does. Later you can explain the why part of it.

I know 3-1/2 year-olds are full of questions and probably the most used word is why? or how come?, but there are some things that they just cannot be made to understand at this age.

Glom
2003-Jul-06, 08:01 PM
I know 3-1/2 year-olds are full of questions and probably the most used word is why? or how come?, but there are some things that they just cannot be made to understand at this age.

What? So all those hours I spent trying to explain two body orbital mechanics to my cousin were wasted? Damn!

Humphrey
2003-Jul-06, 11:49 PM
You will be surprised the things you can learn being a camp counselor to a bunch of small kids. (granted these were kindergarden and older) :-).

Some of them really surpriused me with their knoledge.

Side note: I remeber a few weeks ago learning about a 14 year old starting medical school at Columbia university. They said that at Two, he could read and write, at 3 he was playing classical music, and at 4 he was composing music. Can't remember his name.

Schultze
2003-Jul-06, 11:53 PM
Glom should have explained orbital mechanics to him.

The Supreme Canuck
2003-Jul-06, 11:56 PM
I'm sure he already knew it!

Astronot
2003-Jul-07, 03:30 PM
I think if I could think of a simple way to introduce general relativity to her, I would. I have this thought that there are simple ways to explain how things work. Although I'm not sure my way is necessarily the easiest. (But, man, is it fun introducing this little bean to the world.)

RBG

A way I found to explain things to a 3yo is to play a family game and teach by analogy. Get the family together and tell the child that gravity is like love. That the more of the family that is together the more love you feel. You stand next to her and give her a light hug. Bring in a another family member to illustrate a larger mass and give a bigger hug. Continue until you have exhausted the entire family, literally or figuratively.

A similar game works for condensation and rain. Use one or two children as a water molecules and everyone else as air. When they are warm they (the air) stand apart, holding hands and dance around the water. As they get cooler, the air gets closer together and slow the motion, finally as they are cold, the huddle up tightly and push out the “water”, which falls to the ground.

Supply your own dialog to go with these games as best suits your child, but expect to need to explain this often as my kids tended to “forget” how these work with alarming regularity.

tjm220
2003-Jul-07, 05:01 PM
I've already told you to stop doing that, if you do it one more time...

Oops wrong type of gravity. :oops:

man on the moon
2003-Jul-08, 04:59 AM
garfield said it well..."it;s not gravity, it's GRABity!" (i belive he was talking to ody) :lol:

ToSeek
2003-Jul-08, 04:32 PM
A similar game works for condensation and rain. Use one or two children as a water molecules and everyone else as air. When they are warm they (the air) stand apart, holding hands and dance around the water. As they get cooler, the air gets closer together and slow the motion, finally as they are cold, the huddle up tightly and push out the “water”, which falls to the ground.

Sounds like fun, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the actual cause of condensation. (http://www.ems.psu.edu/~fraser/Bad/BadClouds.html)