Easy Cup & Balloon Activities

Today’s activities are super fun for kids of all ages and only require a couple items that you probably have laying around the house.  The 3 activities that I’m going to show you are the following:

  • Projectile Launcher
  • Pompom Air Cannon
  • Cup Drum

Pompom Air Cannon

This one is fairly easy. Instead of going step by step, I found this awesome diagram that shows you how to make/assemble it super easily.

For the balloon top on mine, I simply tied off the balloon and snipped a bit of the other end and stretched it over. My balloons were kind of small, so the above method might have been better. Use your best judgment! Also, my kids quickly destroyed the plastic cup because it’s walls were too thin. I suggest using a paper cup if you have it!

While your assembling this, get a hypothesis from your kids. Ask them what items do they think will move the furthest and why. We only utilized pompoms for ours, however, I suggest also using something like mini marshmallows and making a disposable cup pyramid.

To make the cannon work, simply aim the small hole towards the items you want to move and squeeze the cup.

This activity is designed to get kids thinking about what happens when air moves. Sometimes it is difficult to think about air and what it does because it is invisible. The air cannon is a way to ‘see’ air as it moves objects within its ‘blast zone’.

The air that shoots out of the cannon is a vortex of air similar to rings of smoke sometimes blown by smokers.

A vortex is a spinning flow of fluid or gas. Water going down the drain and the air in a tornado form vortices in the shape of funnels. The air cannon vortex is a donut shape or, mathematically, a torus. The air in the donut rolls from the center to the edge. The air forms this shape because the air leaving the cup at the centre of the hole is traveling faster than the air leaving around the edge of the hole. The air keeps its shape since the surrounding air is relatively slow moving (and under higher pressure).

Cup Drums

What child doesn’t love an excuse to make noise? These drums are simple to make and actually sound really cool!

For this activity, you will need to tie off the end of your balloon and cut the other half open. Stretch it over the opening of your cup and BOOM instant drum! My balloons were kind of small, so a inflated them prior to cutting to help stretch them out.

Provide various items for them to make music. I recommend using straws, spoons, popsicle sticks, marbles, and chopsticks. You can also use different size cups to really vary up the sound. Try looking up simple drum beat patterns to have them follow along.

Projectile Launchers

These launchers by far were the family favorite. We made one for everyone and chased each other around.


  1. Cut a large hole in the bottom of the cup.
  2. Take your balloon and tie a knot in the open end. Cut the top 1/3 of the balloon off.
  3.  Stretch the balloon over the top of the cup, folding it over the sides. Pull the knot through the hold.
  4. Use the duct tape to secure the balloon on the sides of the cup. (Optional)

TIP: The opening you cut off may be too weak to handle the stress from the balloon, so try stretching it over the other end or double up your cups.

The Science Behind this Experiment:

How does the launcher work? If you stretch a rubber band, it will have elastic potential energy. As you let it go, that potential energy will transfer into kinetic energy, the energy of motion. In our shooter, the balloon is acting like a rubber band. When you pull the knot on the balloon backwards, it creates potential energy, which then transfers to kinetic energy as you let it go, sending the projectile flying!

You can use any lightweight projectile in your home. This includes marshmallows, cotton balls, ping pong balls, and so on.

Have your kids guess which projectiles will launch the furthest. Ask them why and test their theories.

For older kids, here is a great lesson plan to really get their minds working: Launcher PDF

I hope you loved today’s activites! Which one was your favorite? Comment below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *