Help the kids learn about circuits and positive and negative charges in a fun way this summer. This popsicle stick LED flashlight is easy to make and is a perfect summer STEM activity for kids. Read here how to make it and ideas for games to play with flashlights.
We definitely keep things light and fun over the summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t slip in some activities that the kids might learn something from. Flashlights are a huge part of our summer fun, so when I saw this project from Instructables, I knew it would be a fun one for us to try.
Read below to see how we created a popsicle stick LED flashlight using a few simple supplies. Plus, I’ve included some fun flashlight game ideas at the end of the post to continue your summer fun!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- jumbo craft sticks (find them here)
- medium binder clips (find them here)
- coin cell batterries (find them here)
- LED lights (find them here)
- Copper tape or aluminum foil* (find it here)
- transparent tape (find it here)
*You can make the flashlights using regular kitchen foil instead of the copper tape. We used foil on our first take, but I found the copper tape to be much more reliable, so that’s what I recommend.
How to Make the Popsicle Stick LED Flashlights
These are really simple to put together and can be made in a short amount of time. My 10 year old had no problems following along as I showed her how I made mine, however younger kids may need help with some steps. Be sure to check out the troubleshooting steps near the end of this post in case you run into problems!
Step 1: Cut the ends off of your sticks so that you have a straight edge on one side. I cut about 1 1/4″ off and used my medium binder clip as a guide.
Step 2: First, test your battery and LED light by sliding your C cell battery between the prongs of the LED. Once you know everything is working, place your LED on the tip of the curved end of your Jumbo craft stick.
Step 3: Cut a strip of copper tape slightly shorter than the length of your popsicle stick. Guide the tape from the curved tip, completely covering the LED prongs, down towards the cut end of the stick. Repeat on the other side.
Step 4: Add the binder clip to the bottom of the popsicle stick with the prongs flipped up. Use transparent tape (or any non-conductive tape) to secure the battery in place. Only cover the top of the battery with the tape so that the metal prongs of your clips can make contact with the battery (see photo on right below). You may need to fiddle with the placement of the battery. You’ll know it’s in the right spot when your light turns on.
Step 5: Light it up! The flashlight should turn on and off when you lift and lower the metal prong of the binder clip. If your light isn’t working, see below for troubleshooting tips.
How the Popsicle Stick LED Flashlight works:
The copper tape acts as a conductor to carry the charge from the power source (battery) to the LED.
The binder clip helps complete the circuit and acts as a switch, allowing you to turn the flashlight on and off.
Here’s a cute video for kids that explains how a circuit works in a simple way: The Power of Circuits by SciShow Kids
Sometimes everything works smoothly right off the bat, other times it takes a little tinkering. First off, if you have the time, I recommend getting the kids involved in troubleshooting. Giving them a chance to question why it isn’t working and work through solving the problem is good practice and they’ll ultimately get more out of this project. Having said that, here are some pointers that will hopefully help you out:
- If you didn’t confirm that your battery and LED were working before putting your flashlight together, you should check that first.
- Try flipping your battery to the other side
- Try trimming the copper tape so that it doesn’t go all the way down to the plastic part of the clips
5 Fun Flashlight Games to Play
Now that you have your flashlights working, it’s time to have some fun with them! The kids may already have their own ideas for how they want to use their flashlights, but if you need some ideas, take a look at these flashlight games that can be played inside or out.
- Flashlight tag: One person is “it” while everyone else hides. If the light from the flashlight hits your body, you are “tagged” and become the new “it” person.
- Flashlight Marco Polo: Similar to the classic pool game, one person is the seeker who calls out “Marco”, while the other players try to hide. When “Marco” is called out, the hiders flash their flashlights, then the seeker tries to find the hiders based on where the lights were shining. Hiders can continue to move, but they must flash their lights anytime the seeker says “Marco”.
- Shadow puppets: This can be a simple creative activity, or you can turn it into a guessing game where players take turns creating shadows from the light cast by the flashlight. One player makes a shadow while the other players have to guess what it is. You can have a basket of slips of paper with ideas written on them that players must pick from then try to create what is written down (think Charades).
- Firefly Flashlight Game: One person is “it” and runs around with the flashlight in the dark, while the other players try to catch them.
- Flashlight Freeze Dance: Kids dance around in the dark then freeze in their position when the light shines on them. When the flashlight goes off the dancing resumes. This is a fun game with lots of silliness!
More Circuit Activities for Kids
Learning about circuits is pretty cool. But the more kids have a chance to play with the concepts, the more they’ll learn and build on their understanding. These sets are perfect for letting kids play while learning.
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