How To Make Floating Paper Clips

(Chemistry for ages 6+)


Have you ever seen a water strider? It’s an insect that looks a little like a daddy longlegs, but it can walk on water.

How is that even possible? The video above shows an easy activity that demonstrates the science behind how some insects are able to do this. Here’s what you’ll need:



Paper clips
Bowl of water
Adult supervision



  1. First, try gently setting a paper clip on the surface of the water. Does it float?
  2. Now, take one of your paper clips and fold the middle part down 90 degrees so that it makes an “L” shape.
  3. Using that “L,” lay another paper clip across the bottom and carefully lower it to the water. Try to set it flatly on the surface of the water and see if you can get it to float. It might take a few tries, but don’t give up!
    **Bonus step: Try this activity with different temperatures of water, like ice cold and steaming hot. Does it make it easier or harder to set the paper clip on the surface?



Liquids have a unique effect called surface tension, which happens because the tiny molecules that make up the liquid (or water in this case) are slightly attracted to each other (kind of like magnets) and they form a kind of energy at the surface of the water. Some insects, like the water strider, use this tension to carefully stand and walk on the water.