Flying Tea Bag Ghosts

Kids’ science doesn’t get much cooler than these fun flying tea bag ghosts. Kids will love learning about convection and air pressure so much that they’ll be running to the panty for every last tea bag.

And, since this kids’ science activity is oh-so-simple to set up, you won’t mind repeating it over and over again.  And speaking of science, check out our jaw-dropping 30 Science Experiments for kids in our shop!

Flying Tea Bag Ghosts

Follow the simple step-by-step below and then grab 30 more easy-to-follow science experiments kids will beg to repeat (plus a no prep science journal to keep track of their results!) in our shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Getting Ready

To prepare for this activity, I grabbed a stack of tea bags, scissors, a non-flammable plate, a black marker, and a lighter.  I handed my four year old daughter, A, a tea bag and the scissors and asked her to cut the staple end off the top.

Flying Tea Bag Ghosts

After A carefully dumped out the tea,  I quickly drew a simple ghost face on the now cylindrical tea bag and balanced it upright on the plate.  I asked a very anxious A to sit a few feet away and then lit the top of the ghost.

Tea Bag Ghosts. Super cool kids science!

The tea bag burned down quickly and we were prepared to see our little ghost fly but he simply vanished into a pile of ash on the plate.  It took us several attempts using a variety of tea brands to learn that thinner bags like Lipton’s simply turn to ash.  We had the most success with slightly thicker Stash and Tazo Tea bags.  Once we figured this out we had lift off!

Make magic flying tea bag ghosts!

My little ghostbuster just couldn’t get enough and she couldn’t wait to share her discovery with the rest of the family.

The Science Behind It

To explain this kids’ science activity to my four year old I explained that air takes up space inside and outside of the tea bag cylinder.  Then I asked,  “What do you think happens to the air when we light the tea bag on fire?”

“It gets hot,” she replied.

“Yes, and when air molecules get hot they move around more and take up more space,” I explained.  We then pretended to be hot air molecules dancing around the room to the Ghostbusters theme song.  We needed a lot of space to move without bonking each other.

Next, we pretended to be cold air molecules slowly walking around the room.  I asked A if we could fit more cold air molecules into the room without crashing into each other.  “Yes, we could fit a lot of us in here if we move slowly,” she replied.

“If you have a lot of molecules in a space it is denser than if you have less molecules.  So the hot air inside the cylinder spreads out and is less dense than the cooler air outside the cylinder,” I explained.  “The less dense hot air rises above the cooler, more dense air. ”

Make tea bags fly with this super cool kids science.

“Heating the cylinder also caused a convection current,” I continued.  “This is why ash flies up from a campfire.  When the air gets hot and spreads out it leaves space for the cooler air molecules to rush in.  This movement of air molecules creates a current that helps push the nearly ash tea bag {or campfire ash} into the air.”

“And that my little ghostbuster is how you make little ghosts fly!”

More Super Cool Science

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13 Comments

  1. Marie

    Oooooooo….I’m so excited to share this experiment with my wee ones! Thanks for sharing and providing the awesome science behind the scenes.

    Reply
    • Malia Hollowell

      I hope your little ones love the tea bag ghosts as much as our kids have, Marie!! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Sue samuels

    My son and I loved this….laughing hysterically when the ghost shot into the air! We doubled up on the tea bags….putting one inside the other. Seemed to really make it work better!!

    Reply
    • Malia Hollowell

      Doubling up on the tea bags is a great tip, Sue!! Thanks for coming back to share. It’s so fun, isn’t it?!

      Reply
  3. Jenny

    I am so excited about sharing this with my fellow science teachers if I could only get it to work. I think it is an excellent demo that stimulate student curiosity and further experimenting.
    I have tried the demo several times and can’t get it to work. I’m using a Tazo big tea bag, but it doesn’t have a staple in the top. These are used for ice tea. But, when I used the regular size it didn’t work either. Mine does’t look cylindrical like yours. Any advice.

    Reply
    • Noirin

      Hi Jenny,

      I’d try regular ol’ Lipton tea bags and if those seem a bit thin you can double them up. Whatever bag you use they should form a cylinder or the activity won’t work. Good Luck!

      Reply
  4. Jaclyn

    me and my 3.5 year old boy had a blast with this today. it was great for his cutting skills, i even let him draw the face on the ghost.

    I was so excited i called my husband in to check it out! It’s cool! And he got very… “overly concerned parent”. He challenged me to ask others if they did this activity inside (i did, it seemed very under control) and that it was teaching our son that fire is a toy. i think it’s the opposite- it’s teaching the damage of fire!

    What do you think?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Noirin

      Hi Jaclyn

      We also did this experiment inside and I didn’t feel like it was unsafe at all. My 4 year old is extremely cautious and would have been upset if this was anything remotely dangerous. It does however present a great opportunity to talk about fire safety and how ashes lifted from a fire due to convection could ignite the ground around it.

      Reply
    • Aniya

      No No NO do not do this dumb project what if your child burns their hand!!!???

      Reply
      • Noirin

        Hi Aniya,

        When I have done this with my children I have lit the ghosts so there is no chance that my kids could get burned. I actually had them sit several feet away to make sure they were safe from the fire. That being said they both also know how to light a fire and use matches. I strongly feel it is important to teach children how to be safe around fire, scissors, and knives. This way if they ever find themselves around them they are confident enough to handle them in a calm and safe way instead of panicking. In either case this demonstration has the adult handling the fire so it is completely safe.

        Reply
  5. Alecia

    My 7, 4 and 3 year old loved this! I drink a lot of tea so I think just seeing what it is inside of a tea bag and smelling it (we used Tazo Chai flavored) was interesting, but the best part was setting it on fire of course. They wanted to do it again right away, and my 7 year old wanted to make a video of it which he narrated and everything. I love how simple and perfect for Halloween it is, and your explanation was very clear.

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Malia.

I LOVE helping Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade teachers save time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger results. I’m so glad you’re here!