This activity reinforces the skills of observation, asking questions and experimentation.

Our science consultant Fred Stein explains that at the first-grade level, students are able to ask “What will happen if…” questions. “These kinds of questions lead to exploring and experimenting. By asking and finding out what happens when changing the size or material of their laughing cups, or the way that they pull their string, they reinforce the idea of cause and effect, which is the basis for understanding variables.”

What you’ll need:

  • Paper cup
  • Paper clip
  • Cotton String
  • Scissors
  • Paper towel
  • Water

Here’s how to do it

This simple noise-maker creates amusing sounds by rubbing a string attached to a cup.

Tie about a half-meter (2 feet) of string to a paper clip with a double knot. Push the paper clip through the bottom of the cup so it ends up in the cup (use scissors to poke a small hole if you need to). Then, pull the paper clip out of the cup, slide the knot to the middle of the length of the paper clip and pull the paper clip back into the cup.

To play your laughing cup, moisten a paper towel and fold it over the string. Hold the cup in your other hand without touching the string. Pinch the string through the paper towel. Then, holding the string taut, pull the paper towel along the string a bit at a time to make laughing noises.

How many kinds of sounds can you make? Experiment with the way you pull the string to make different sounds, such as a rooster or other animal sounds. Try making baby, mommy and daddy sounds using different size cups.