3-2-1 blast off! What happens when you use a balloon to power Santa’s sleigh? Will he make his rounds in time, or will he fall flat? The kids will love this super easy-to-set-up Santa’s balloon rocket STEM activity. Not only is it awesome fun, but also it explores physics and the Laws of Motion! Join us as we celebrate the holiday season with festive and fun Christmas STEM activities for kids of all ages.
Explore STEM This Festive Season
This is an awesome STEM activity for filling an afternoon, turning off the screens, and getting the kids up and moving while learning some great physics.
The supplies are simple, and you probably have everything you need in the junk drawer. You can use our sleigh printable or let the kids draw their own. That might keep them busy just a bit longer too. I am pretty sure my son would add jet boosters the next time.
The science behind it is awesome, and I love that you can explore physics (think Newton) with such a playful activity that gets the kids involved. Hands-on learning is an excellent way to help kids understand what’s happening and to be a part of the learning process.
A STEM challenge like this balloon rocket STEM activity is an excellent way to learn about and practice the engineering design process.
What is the Engineering Design Process?
Engineers often follow a design process. There are many different design processes that all engineers use, but each one includes the same basic steps to identify and solve problems.
An example of the process is “ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve.” This process is flexible and may be completed in any order.
It is considered a cycle with no real starting point or endpoint. It may even loop out and expand into parallel design processes that come back to the original problem or run on a tangent.
The engineering design process has a specific task as its focus and is important as it allows the engineer to reproduce results. Also, communicate those results with other engineers once the goal is reached.
How Does A Balloon Rocket Work
So how exactly does Santa’s sleigh get its go? It’s all about the thrust and Newton’s Third Law of Motion that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Let’s start with thrust. You blow up the balloon, so now it’s filled with gas. When you release the balloon, the air/gas escapes creating a forward pushing motion called thrust! Thrust is created by the energy released from the balloon.
Then, you can bring in Sir Isaac Newton. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the third law of motion. When the gas is forced out of the balloon, it is pushed back against the air outside the balloon, which then pushes the balloon forward!
Extend The Activity
Kids will love testing this science concept repeatedly, and you can easily turn it into an experiment for older kids.
Test out differently shaped balloons, change the angle of the string or the type of string, and play around with the straw!
Why not try a sleigh race and set up two strings? Have the kids race their balloon rockets!
Santa’s Balloon Rocket
Let’s get Santa’s sleigh balloon rocket set up to fly! You will need some space and two objects to tie the string to in a room. If you live someplace warm, you can even take it outside.
- Sleigh Image (or draw your own)
STEP 1. Cut out the sleigh or design your own. You can use ours as an outline of the kids want to color and decorate their own.
STEP 2. Cut the length of the straw and feed the string through the straw.
STEP 3. Then you will want to tape or tie either end of the string to go across a room.
You can set up two chairs and tie the string to the chairs. Use a doorknob or whatever works in your area.
STEP 4. Blow up the balloon and fill it with potential energy!
TIP: Use the clothespin to hold the balloon closed, so you have time to get it set up perfectly.
STEP 5. Tape the balloon below the straw. Make sure the straw moves freely. This is a good opportunity for problem-solving with the kids.
Don’t forget your sleigh! You want to tape the sleigh graphic to the side of the balloon!
STEP 7. Make sure the balloon is on one side of the string. You can get a stopwatch or timer ready to make it official and collect data!
Now for the big moment! It’s time to release the clothespin and let Santa’s sleigh fly!
What happened or didn’t happen? Now is a great time to evaluate the activity and ensure everything happened as you hoped it would. See our reflection questions for students.
If your balloon rocket didn’t work, what else can you try? Re-test and re-evaluate; that’s the best part of this Santa STEM activity!
More Fun Christmas STEM Challenges
Santa’s Chimney Challenge: Soft candy and toothpicks are a winning combination for building structures for STEM. Build a chimney for Santa. How high can you make it?
Santa’s Sleigh Challenge: Santa needs a sleigh to make his rounds. But what happens if Santa’s sleigh is down for repairs with no time to spare? It’s up to you to design and build Santa a new sleigh with this Christmas STEM challenge, complete with free printable worksheets.
Christmas Tree STEM Challenge: Get your kids off the screens and into Christmas-building games with this Christmas tree cup game. The challenge is to build a Christmas tree with just 100 cups.
Christmas Catapult: Design and build a simple catapult, and test how far you can fling the red and white pom and poms. Almost to the North Pole!
More Christmas Activities For Kids
Printable Christmas STEM Project Pack
- 25+ Christmas theme science and STEM activities with printable sheets, instructions, and useful information all using easy-to-source materials perfect for limited-time needs. Includes a holiday theme engineering pack with fun, problem-based challenges for kids to solve! NEW observation sheets included.
- Try a Santa’s Letter airplane challenge or take the gingerbread house-building challenge!
- Explore the five senses with a specially designed Santa’s Lab pack.
- Try a mini nature study with your favorite type of Christmas tree.
- Try your hand at building shapes with gumdrop structure challenge cards or build shapes with jingle bells. Or try the Christmas-themed paper chain challenge!
- Christmas Screen-free Coding activities include algorithm games, binary code ornaments, and more!
- Explore 6+ Christmas Art Projects with famous artist-inspired activities that combine art history, process art techniques, and more with simple to-do ideas.