Spiders are often associated with Halloween, but they are fascinating creatures at any time of year. This easy, fun, and active spider web science experiment is a wonderful way to teach your preschooler or kindergarten student about how spider webs work, and even toddler junior scientists will enjoy the sensory fun and gross motor skills challenge it provides.
Spiders produce a special sort of silk that is sticky and incredibly strong. If you were to compare an equally thick piece of steel rope and a spider's silk, the silk would be stronger. Scientists believe that spiders may have begun to spin webs to protect their eggs, but most spiders now use their silk to capture insects that the eat. A spider will spin a web, or even leave a "trap line" of sticky silk. Unsuspecting insects get stuck to the web, and are trapped there. Spiders themselves don't stick to the silk because of a special oil their body produces.
To learn more about how the strong, sticky spider webs work, we built one of our own. All you need is masking tape and cotton balls!
First, we stuck strips of masking tape across a door opening, criss-crossing them in spider web fashion with the sticky side of the tape facing out.
Next, we gathered a bag of cotton balls to represent our insects. If you want, you could even use a marker to draw eyes on each cotton ball. After gently touching the "web" to see that it felt sticky, we stood back and tossed the cotton balls at the web. Sure enough, many got trapped on the sticky tape. We then got up close to the web to see just how everything was sticking:
This was a fun and easy activity that helped us understand a little bit more about the science behind spider webs. It was also a fun sensory experience and an effective way to incorporate gross motor movement activities into our day. Deconstructing the web and playing with the resulting cotton ball and tape balls was pretty fun too.
If you would like to learn a little more about the science behind spiders, make sure you watch the "Along Came a Spider" episode of "The Cat in the Hat" on Kids' CBC. After the main characters in the show, Nick and Sally, discover that their soccer goal has a hole in it, the Cat in the Hat takes them on an adventure to see Mabel the spider, who teaches the kids how she spins webs and fixes holes.
You could even finish your afternoon of spider science off by making these yummy chocolate rice krispy spider treats.