For me growing up, part of the magic of Christmas was listening for the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof the night before Christmas.
I always wanted my own reindeer. I mean, who wouldn’t want a fleet of magic flying reindeer at their disposal?
This Christmas STEAM activity captures some of that magic. With adult supervision, children can create a flying tea bag reindeer this holiday season that is sure to delight.
Don’t miss the video at this end of this post!
Note: For more Christmas activities your kids will love, see my Christmas Activities for Kids page.
First a note of caution: This activity involves the use of fire. As such, this activity should only be performed under adult supervision in a safe location far away from flammable objects. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case of any accidents.
Step 1: Preparing your reindeer for flight
To make your flying tea bag reindeer, you’ll need the following materials for step 1:
- Red, brown, and black markers
- A tea bag
Cut the top off of the bag of tea.
Empty the contents of the tea bag.
Draw a reindeer on your tea bag using the markers.
Step 2: Launching your reindeer into flight
In order to launch your reindeer into flight, you will need:
- Your tea bag reindeer
- A non-flammable surface to set your reindeer on in a safe area no wind and nothing that could catch on fire
- A lighter
- A fire extinguisher, in case of emergency
Use your fingers to open the tea bag so that it becomes a cylinder. Stand the cylinder up on a non-flammable surface. We used a metal plate on our garage floor.
If your tea bag cylinder will not stand up, you may need to re-cut the bottom of the bag so that it is completely level. You’ll also need to be in an area with no wind to blow it over.
This is where adult supervision becomes crucial. An adult should use a lighter to ignite the top of the tea bag.
The tea bag reindeer will quickly burn down. As the flame reaches the bottom, the reindeer will launch into flight!
Check out the whole process and see our reindeer launch into flight in this short video below.
What makes the tea bag reindeer fly?
There are three different forces at work that allow the tea bag reindeer to fly.
First, as the cylindrical tea bag burns down, the air inside the bag heats up. When air heats up, it becomes less dense. And when air becomes less dense, it rises. So, as the air inside the cylinder becomes warmer and less dense than the air outside the cylinder, the cylinder rises.
Second, as we’ve established, the hot air inside the burning cylinder will rise as it becomes less dense than the cool air outside the cylinder. As the hot air rises, cool air rushes in to take its place, creating a convection current. In this case, the convection current pushes upwards from the bottom of the bag.
Finally, as the tea bag burns the smoke rises and leaves behind a very delicate and very lightweight frame of ash. The ash framework is so lightweight that it is easily carried into the air by the hot rising air and convection current.
More Christmas resources
More Christmas STEAM activities from Gift of Curiosity:
- Crystallized candy canes
- Candy cane experiment
- Christmas tree on a sponge
- Christmas fizzy painting
- Painting with candy canes
- Christmas tree ribbon math craft
- Cinnamon Christmas tree ornaments