Learn about the forces of motion and gravity with this painting technique that uses a swinging pendulum.
The Science Behind Pendulum Painting
A pendulum is a fixed object hung from a point so it can swing freely back and forth due to the force of gravity. When discussing the concept with children a great example to use is a swing. As a the swing moves back and forth it is demonstrating the physics of a pendulum. The swing is moving back and forth due to the force of gravity on the swing.
Foam or Paper Cup, Scissors, String, Tape, 2 Chairs, Broom, Large Paper (We used a roll of brown craft paper), Plastic Tablecloth or other drop cloth
Step 1: Prep the workspace by covering the floor with a drop cloth. Prep the pendulum by poking a hole in the bottom of the paper cup and one hole on each side of the cup underneath the rim. Tie a piece of string through the two holes on the side of the cup creating a handle for the cup.
Step 2: Place the broom horizontal across between the two chairs and slide the string tied cup to the middle of the broom.
Step 3: Before adding paint to the cup, test your pendulum with water. This is an easy way to make sure your work space is covered before adding paint. It also allows your artist time to experiment with swinging the cup.
Once your child is ready, place a piece of tape covering the bottom hole of the cup and fill the cup with a mixture of washable paint and water. It may depend on the thickness of your paint but we used a 2:1 ratio, 2 parts paint to 1 part water. Roll out and place your paper underneath the pendulum.
Remove the tape and swing the cup. Observe what patterns the pendulum creates on the paper.
Step 4: Let the painting dry completely.
Experiment with different timing of swinging the cup, different lengths of string, or lowering and raising the cup.
Afraid of the Mess? Try it Outside!
This project can get a bit messy (but with a drop cloth it was very easy to clean up).
If the idea of painting inside scares you…try taking the pendulum painting outside. Use washable sidewalk paint to test the pendulum outside.
DIY Washable Sidewalk Paint Recipe
1/3 c. of cornstarch
1/3 c. of water
tablespoon of Washable Paint
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Be sure to test the paint in a small spot first to make sure it will wash off. We have found some different brands of paint wash off easier than others.
- What pattern is the pendulum making with the paint?
- What happens if you swing the pendulum gently or swing it more forcefully?
- What does the painting look like or remind you of?