We see the sun every day, but we don’t often think about the energy it has that’s used all over the world. Sure, we know how plants can’t grow without the sun, and we know that the sun is very hot.
But what about the electricity that can be harvested from the sun to run lights and other everyday utilities?
Solar power converts energy from the sun into electricity. Heat and light are two types of energy we can get from the sun. Solar panels, which are photovoltaic cells, are installed onto things such as roofs. The cells’ electrons become loose when sun touches these cells, which generates electricity.
You’ve seen small versions of this in action when using a calculator!
Some power plants also use solar power via thermal energy from the sun. Using the sun’s energy, the plant can generate steam and turn a turbine to create electricity. This is similar to how fossil fuel power plants work.
Solar power has become popular because it’s good for the environment: it doesn’t create any pollution. One disadvantage is that solar panels are expensive, and cloudy weather can sometimes cause an issue with powering devices.
Fun Facts About Solar Power
- Solar power might not be something that you think it used very often, but it is — you’ve seen it while using a calculator!
- Solar energy has been used for thousands of years, first for drying clothes in the sun and drying food.
- It has zero pollution, unlike fossil fuels, and is a renewable form of energy.
- While solar panels can be expensive, they’ve become cheaper in recent years.
- The first solar cells could be purchased in 1956, but they were very expensive.
- Solar power is the most abundant source of power that exists.
- Even though the sun sets in the evening, it’s possible to store solar energy to use it 24/7.
- What about when it rains? Solar cells aren’t usually harmed by rain and other precipitation.
- Greeks and Romans used solar energy by building houses with windows that faced the sun to heat and light their homes.
Solar Power Activities for Kids
Below are some fun solar power activities for your child to perform to see exactly how solar power works.
- Use the sun to blow up a balloon: By using two empty 2-liter bottles, two balloons, and some paint, you can see the sun’s energy in action. Painting one bottle white and the other black will show how the white bottle doesn’t heat up as fast.
- Create solar lights: You can buy cheap solar path lights, pop them on top of a mason jar, and have a small solar-powered light at your disposal. This is a great way to show solar power in action on a smaller scale.
- Create upcycled crayons: Have a bunch of broken and small crayons? On a hot day in the summer, put them in small plastic cups in tin foil and watch them melt and re-harden. You will then have some new crayons in many interesting hues.
- Build a solar oven: This is a fun and tasty way to showcase solar power. Using aluminum foil and some other supplies, show your kids how food can be cooked using solar power. You might end up with some sun baked s’mores at the end of your experiment.
- On the other hand, who needs an oven? Fry an egg on the sidewalk: This is a classic summertime activity that’s been around for decades. Is it hot enough the fry an egg on the sidewalk? Crack one open and see. Even in extreme heat, it’s usually not hot enough to fully cook and egg, but it’s still fun to try.
- Make a solar updraft tower: Using a few household items, you can make a pinwheel spin using nothing but solar power. No batteries required! This is a very simple experiment that doesn’t even require solar panels.
Solar Power Kit for Kids
This kit is a comprehensive educational kit that’s mainly used in schools but is also perfect for kids wanting to take their solar power education to the next level at home. It walks kids through how solar cells work and how they’re used in every day life to power buildings.
Exploring everything from setting up equipment to wiring loads in series and building a solar-powered battery charger, the solar lab kit provides a good look at everything solar power related. The kit also teaches about general electricity terms, such as voltage, power, and resistance.
The manual includes 10 different activities as well as all of the needed parts, including batteries. It also teaches kid about the history of solar power and solar energy.
Generally found for under $60, this is a great kit that packs a lot of lessons into a few activities to go beyond just the basics and delve into the specifics of how we use solar energy.
With an MSRP under $15, this little kit is a great budget option for those who don’t want to spend a lot. Using a recycled soda can, your child will transform it into a solar-powered rover. All parts are included, and it’s perfect for all ages. On a sunny day, the rover’s motor will power up and drive the car.
This is a very simple kit, but the instructions are clear, and it’s an easy way to illustrate the basics of solar power and see it in action. If your child is looking for a kit that will keep them busy for a longer period of time or teach them the complexities of solar power, consider buying a more comprehensive kit.
The directions say ages 8+, but younger kids could easily put this kit together with parental guidance.
A mid-range kit, this robot can turn into 14 modes, all powered by the sun. It can be transformed from a dog to a surfer to a car, sure to not have your child bored anytime soon. Since it’s completely run using an included solar panels, you don’t ever have to worry about buying new batteries.
There are also two levels to this kit, which targets both beginners and more experienced solar scientists. Those who are beginners will be ready for the advanced level once they complete the beginning activities. Since this is a multi-function kit, the parts are built with the intention that they will be rebuilt often, so the parts snap together easily. The robot is a bit fragile, so kids should be careful not to drop it or accidentally step on it.
Instructions are easy to understand, though parents may need to assist younger children with assembling this kit.
Solar Power YouTube Videos
- If you’d like to learn more about solar power, how it’s used, and show your child examples of it, we’ve curated some excellent videos.
- How do solar panels work? A quick Ted-Ed video about the basics.
- Bill Nye also did a quick basic video about solar energy.
- This video specifically explains how solar panels work.
- How does the thermal part of solar energy work?
- Here’s a quick solar car activity.