Electricity is a natural phenomenon created from charged particles, static accumulation, or dynamic currents. People mistakenly lump electricity, energy, and power together, but they are three separate terms. Energy is the measurement of the strength, force, and capacity needed to do work. Power is the measurement of how fast you can complete work versus the total amount of work required. Electricity powers your home. Here’s how it gets to you:
- Generation: Power plants have generators, and generators have turbines that need an outside source to power them. When the turbine rotates, electricity is generated. For example, the huge windmills you see are generators, and the turbines need wind to power them. When windmill blades spin, energy is generated.
- Transmission: Electricity that is generated at the power plant is sent to nearby substations using transmission lines. These lines carry high voltage electricity to the substations that prepare lower voltages for your home.
- Distribution: Once the electricity has reached the substations, it is converted to lower voltages for homes. The electricity exits the substation using power lines, then passes through a wired service line into your home.
Learning foundational information about electricity is important so that you can protect yourself and others from electrical hazards. You can get shocked from a variety of sources, from power lines to household appliances, and an electrical shock can cause lasting health issues — and in some cases, death. Electrical hazards can create fires as well. It is important for parents to take protective measures to ensure that all family members avoid hazards, and one of the best ways to do so is by equipping them with indoor and outdoor electrical safety considerations. The information below is meant to provide parents and educators with insight into how to educate your kids on electricity and tips for proper electrical safety.
Electrical Safety Indoors
There are specific electrical risks inside of your home to make sure that your children are aware of. Some of the most common risks are outlets, wires, household appliances, and water.
Outlets and Plugs
- Don’t stick your fingers, toys, or any other objects in electrical outlets or sockets;
- Don’t plug too many appliances into one outlet;
- Don’t touch light bulbs in lamps or light features;
- Don’t let children unplug or plug something in without permission or supervision;
- Repair outlets and plugs that aren’t working.
Wires and Cords
- Don’t let children play with or chew on electrical cords — whether they are plugged in or unplugged;
- When you are unplugging a cord, unplug it at the base of the plug, not by yanking the cord;
- Don’t touch or plug in any cords that are broken or have exposed wires;
- Repair or replace exposed wires and broken cords.
- If you are ever cleaning an appliance, make sure to unplug it;
- Don’t stick your fingers, toys, or any other objects into household appliances — even if the appliance is off or not plugged in;
- Avoid using any appliances if you are wet or near water;
- Keep electric space heaters away from items that are flammable like curtains, bedsheets, laundry, etc.
By and large, water and electricity do not mix. Water is one of the best conductors, and when you touch water and electricity at the same time, you become the electricity’s route to the ground. When this happens, you generally get shocked. Avoid things like:
- Bringing or storing liquids around electronics to avoid any potential spills;
- Avoid using appliances near a sink, bathtub, shower, or any other source of water;
- Keep electrical cords and plugs away from sources of water;
- Avoid touching anything electrical — light switches, cords, appliances, outlets, etc. — when you are wet.
Tips for Parents
While it is important to educate children on the information above, it is ultimately a parent’s responsibility to ensure proper safety measures and to create safe electrical habits in the home. Listed below are several tips that parents should consider for comprehensive electrical safety inside the home.
- Electrical hazards aren’t always obvious. Getting regular electrical safety checks from a professional can help eliminate any potential hazards before they become a serious issue.
- All rooms have electrical outlets, and it is important to child-proof them. A great option for this is a tamper-resistant receptacle. They have spring-loaded plates that block outlet openings, but they allow you to plug appliances and cords in with equal pressure from a plug. Other options like plastic caps and childproof outlets that require you to screw into them could create choking and fire hazards.
- Replace two-prong outlets in your home. They were commonly used in the past, but two-prong outlets cannot be grounded, and when outlets aren’t grounded, you are at risk for shock, appliance, and electrical system damage, and it is a fire hazard. Check to see if you have two-prong outlets in your home and get them replaced with a safer electrical outlet option. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own, it is a good idea to take advantage of professional outlet repair and service.
- Keep all cords and wires tucked away. People can fall, and trip and exposed wires increase the chance of getting shocked. Tuck them behind furniture, have wiring placed in the walls, or use a hide-a-cord device.
- Offer to help your child unplug and plug in any cords or appliances when they are young. As they get older, show them how and be sure to observe how they do it on their own.
- Unplug appliances and power strips when they are not in use.
- Store electronics out of reach.
- Replace any electrical wiring that needs it. Outdated wiring can be a fire hazard. The wiring in your home lasts between 50 and 70 years, so be sure to keep track of when it's time and get it replaced.
- Check for any water leaks — especially ones that are around household appliances — and get them taken care of immediately to avoid potentially crossing water with electricity.
Electrical Safety Outdoors
There are additional outdoor electricity safety considerations that you should consider as well. Note that outdoor electrical safety includes the exterior of your home and areas outside of your personal property — potential dangers such as powerlines, substations, and utility poles. Lightning is another thing to consider. One of the hard parts about electrical safety outdoors is that you don’t always have as much control as you do inside of your home. That is why it is so important to talk to your children about how to practice electrical safety outdoors.
Power Lines and Utility Poles
- Do not touch power lines or utility poles with any part of your body or any sort of object.
- Do not climb utility poles.
- Do not climb trees that are nearby power lines or that have power lines running through them.
- Do not go near or touch any downed power lines. Tell your kids to tell an adult so that they can contact the power company or call 911 immediately. If a friend, family member, or pet comes in contact with a downed power line, do not try and help them. Call 911 immediately.
- Keep flying objects away from power lines (e.g., kites, balloons, model/remote planes, etc.).
- Don’t throw objects onto power lines. It is fairly common to see sneakers being tied together and thrown onto power lines — avoid this. If you see an item tangled in a power line, tell your children to tell an adult or call 911.
- Don’t hang signs on utility poles (e.g., lemonade stand, yard sale, lost pet, etc.).
- Do not ever go into an electrical substation for any reason. If a friend, pet, family member, or toy has gone into a substation, do not follow. Tell your kids to tell an adult immediately or call 911.
- Do not play around with electrical substation fencing, and do not touch or climb on the fencing either.
- Stay at least three yards away from a substation at all times.
- Pay attention (and listen to) any signs that are marked “Keep Out,” “High-Voltage,” or “Danger.”
- Do not go swimming during a storm — especially if you have heard thunder or you have seen lightning.
- Avoid touching any electrical toys, tools, or appliances if you are wet or near a water source (pool, puddle, pond, fountain/water feature).
- Keep all electrical items away from water sources.
- If a pool light is flickering, stay out of the water.
Tips for Parents
As mentioned above, it is good for children to become educated on different outdoor safety considerations, but there are also things that parents should keep in mind to reduce risk.
- Check the weather to be wary of any storms in the future so that you can be sure to store all electrical items away.
- Keep all electronics, wiring, and outlets away from any sources of water.
- Properly maintain outdoor lighting so that they aren’t a hazard in wet weather. Make sure that your lighting is covered appropriately from the weather at all times, or you can take advantage of weatherproof lighting and features. You should also ensure that your outdoor lighting is free from tangles (string lighting). If you need to change out your lightbulbs, make sure that you turn off the appropriate circuits to reduce any possibilities of electrical shocks.
- Update your outlets. Any areas that are exposed to moisture need to have GFCI outlets to help avoid electrocution. If you have experience with outlet installation, you may be able to do this yourself. Still it is always a good idea to hire a professional to install an outdoor outlet professionals to ensure you and your family's safety.
- Protect your outdoor outlets at all times. You can do things like making sure that outlets are only in covered areas, or you can take advantage of protective coverings like bubble covers if you need outlets in uncovered areas.
- If you are utilizing extension cords for power outside, make sure you are using the right cord for the job (based on wattage ratings), that you are only plugging into GFCI outlets, and that you are unplugging and storing the cord when it is not in use.
- Be careful when you are mowing or weeding near the wires, outlets, or extension cords around your home.
- Stay inside during a storm and avoid metal and water sources if you need to go outside.
- If you have a pool, make sure that all electrical wires are either buried or kept at least 10 feet from the water.
Resources for Teaching Children About Electricity
Parents can do a great job protecting their children from electrical hazards, but they also need to teach them about electricity. When children have a foundational understanding of electricity, they are generally better equipped to keep themselves safe when you’re not around. All children learn differently, so it is important to become aware of all of the different educational resources available. Be sure to consider the age-appropriateness of the resources to pick the best option for your kid.
Electricity Experiments and Activities for Kids
Electrical experiments are fun hands-on ways to help teach kinesthetic and visual learners about electricity — some examples include:
- Potato clock: You can use a potato clock to show how energy is conducted. You will need two large potatoes, a pair of scissors or a wire cutter, two galvanized nails, copper wiring (three 20 cm strips), six alligator strips, and a digital clock that uses batteries.
- Homopolar motor: You can create a simple homopolar motor to teach kids about circuits and currents. You will need a AA battery, a cylindrical neodymium magnet, 16-gauge bare copper wire, and scissors or a wire cutter.
- Playdough circuits: You can teach kids about conductors and circuits using playdough. You will need some playdough, a battery pack, and LEDs.
- Salt and pepper static: You can use salt and pepper to teach children about static electricity. You will need an empty dish, salt (two tablespoons), pepper (1 teaspoon), and a plastic comb.
- LED Water Conduction: You can show children how water conducts electricity with LEDs. You will need an LED, two small button batteries, copper wires, alligator clips, scotch tape, a small container, and both tap water and distilled water.
Electricity Websites for Kids
There are numerous electricity websites designed for solitary, intrapersonal learners — some examples include:
- Ducksters: Ducksters provides foundational electricity information and a variety of different quizzes, crossword puzzles, word searches, and experiments to help educate children.
- Science Kids: Science Kids has numerous games, experiments, projects, images, videos, fun facts, lessons, and quizzes to help teach children about electricity.
- ScienceWiz: ScienceWiz has songs, independent lessons, documentaries, presentations, history lessons, animations, and numerous games and activities to help children learn about electricity.
- NeoK12: NeoK12 has several games, diagrams, presentations, pictures, videos, and various other activities on their site to help children discover more about electricity.
- Get Smart: Get Smart offers a variety of different WebQuests, worksheets, experiments, videos, and interactive games to help children understand electricity.
Electricity Lesson Plans for Kids
Electricity lesson plans can be used to tailor to verbal and interpersonal learners — some places to find lesson plans include:
- Teachers Pay Teachers: Teachers Pay Teachers is a platform that has millions of different lesson plans. You can search for lessons based on subject and grade level. There are free and paid options.
- Teach-no logy: Has over 30 different lessons surrounding electricity and magnetism to choose from for free.
- The Homeschool Mom: The Homeschool Mom has numerous lesson plans for teaching electricity to children. You can filter results by age groups — young (pre-k to 3rd grade), middle (4th to 6th grade), older (7th to 12th grade).
- Energy Kids: Energy Kids is a site run by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and it has a number of different lesson plans for primary learners (kindergarten to 3rd grade), elementary learners (4th to 7th grade), intermediate learners (6th to 9th grade), and secondary learners (9th to 12th).
- Teach Starter: Teach Starter has a variety of lesson plans on their site to help teach electricity. You can narrow your search by grade level as well. They also have an educational podcast and blog.
Electrical Safety at Home
Teaching children about electricity and how to use it safely is important for creating a healthy and safe home environment. It is also important for homeowners to understand and acknowledge their own limitations when it comes to the electrical components in their home. Working with electricity is inherently dangerous. If you experience electrical issues or would like to upgrade your current system, trust your local pros at Mr. Electric. We have the experience and training to help with all your home electrical needs. Give us a call at 844-866-1367 or schedule an appointment online today!