Mini Topic: Bubble wrap


Turn the fascination children have with bubble wrap into fun learning with these activity ideas from Jean Evans

Children are always fascinated by bubble wrap. They enjoy the crunchy rustle as they squash it in their hands and the satisfying pop as they burst the individual sections.

You can capture this natural curiosity and turn it into a learning opportunity using these simple ideas. Obtain samples of wrap with both large and small bubbles. Remember, however, that all activities involving plastic sheeting should be carefully supervised.


Protection

  • Begin your exploration of bubble wrap by discussing its purpose.

  • Show the children a parcel with different objects protected by bubble wrap. Do they know why the bubble wrap is there? Would other materials such as foil, soft fabric and paper be as effective? Why not?


Buoyancy

Cut up some pieces of bubble wrap with large and small bubbles. You can float them on the water tray, then try to make them sink.

  • What happens to them?

  • Can the children suggest why the material floats?

  • Try floating other scraps of materials such as cotton, kitchen roll, foil, polythene, thin sheets of wood, thick card.

  • Which materials float and which sink?

Cut out fish shapes from the bubble wrap and attach a paper clip to one end.

  • Catch the 'fish' using a rod, made using dowelling, string and a magnet.

  • Alternatively, catch your 'fish' using fishing nets.

  • Try numbering the fish using a waterproof pen and catching them in numerical order.

Make rafts for small world people by attaching a strip of bubble wrap to the underside of a margarine tub lid.


Insulation

Discover the insulating properties of bubble wrap.

  • Make a hot drink (not too hot) and pour one half into a plastic cup and the other into a plastic cup with a layer of bubble wrap taped to the outside.

  • Which of the drinks cools more quickly?

  • Fill a thermos and show how it too keeps drinks warm.

Place ice cubes in a margarine tub and insulate with layers of bubble wrap.

  • How long does it take for the ice to melt?

  • Experiment with other materials such as cloth, foil and paper. Which is most effective?


Living things

Create a greenhouse effect by covering a seed tray with bubble wrap and taping the bubble wrap to the sides.

  • Plant seeds in two trays, with and without the 'greenhouse' covering.

  • See how quickly the seeds germinate in each tray.

  • Talk about the conditions necessary for growth.

Learn about life cycles and extend the children's new knowledge with appropriate displays.

  • Use small bubble wrap to represent frog spawn, putting black dots in the centre of each circle to form eggs.

  • Use individual sections from large bubble wrap to represent the segments of a caterpillar as you re-create the life cycle of a butterfly.

Look for patterns in nature, such as spots and stripes.

  • Stick a small piece of large bubble wrap to a block of wood and use it to print ladybird or leopard spots on fabric.


Sound

Pop large and small bubbles in bubblewrap.

  • Is the sound the same?

  • Use this as a sound effect in stories and rhymes, for example to make a 'pop' as the hungry caterpillar comes out of the egg or the fat peas pop out of the pod.
  • Try making other sounds with pieces of wrap. Rustle a piece between the flat of your hands. Attach some wrap to two blocks of wood and beat or rub them softly together.
  • Extend children's vocabulary by asking them to talk about the different sounds they have made. Encourage them to invent words to describe the sounds, and introduce appropriate words such as 'scrunch' and 'pop'.


Pattern

  • Attach a strip of small bubble wrap around a rolling pin, dip it in paint mixed with PVA glue and roll it along to create patterns on fabric, paper or card. Now use with large bubble wrap and compare the patterns. Try making your own wallpaper and wrapping paper using this technique.


Small world

  • Make life jackets for dolls and small world people from bubble wrap.
  • Create mattresses, cushions and pillows for doll's houses from fabric stuffed with bubble wrap strips.


In 3D

  • Cut individual sections from large bubble wrap and display these with other recycled materials for children to create three-dimensional collage pictures and to use on their models, for example as knobs and switches.

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