There's no better teacher than hands-on experience, but there are better ways for your little ones to learn about electricity than sticking a finger in an electrical socket! A much safer – and much more fun – way is to visit a museum or take a tour that focuses on science and learning.
The New York Transit Museum offers ElectriCity: Powering New York's Rails. Hop on the subway to the museum in New York City, then explore this interactive exhibit to learn how electricity keeps it running. Historical photographs should how the underground system was built and artifacts including giant switches and circuit breakers bring to life how electricity powers it all.
Here's your kids' chance to play in a lightning storm – and still be safe. The Museum of Science in Boston has a live presentation called Lightning! that produces real lightning indoors so visitors can learn more about conductors, insulators, magnetism and even storm safety.
Speaking of lightning, Benjamin Franklin pioneered our fascination with electricity with the story of his kite experiment in a lightning storm, and The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia pays tribute to that with four floors of science to explore. The museum, of course, has an exhibit devoted to electricity, with stations where kids can build a circuit or light up LEDs with electrical signals from your cell phone.
The Miami Science Museum features interactive exhibits about energy and renewable resources throughout its campus. One example: the Energy Dance Floor. As your family dances, the energy you create is captured to power fun and funky lighting effects. There is also a thermal camera you can dance in front of to see how much energy you are producing in the form of body heat. Visitors can also become a human yo-yo in the Energy Garden.
The EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C., has a huge movie library and lots of interactive games, including the Energy Master Challenge, to help visitors of all ages learn about electricity and how nuclear energy is produced.
Ignite your imagination at the MegaZapper Electrical Show at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, Washington. The demonstrations and machines used in this 40-minute show mix science with science fiction for fun and learning.
Hoover Dam was the largest in the world when it was built in the 1930s. Even though it no longer holds that title, it is still an engineering marvel that produces 4.2 billion kilowatt hours a year of electricity, providing energy to millions of residents and businesses in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. You and your family can tour this monolithic structure and its power plant to learn what it took to build and what it takes to operate today.