Radiation Guide for Kids

What is Radiation?

Did you ever draw a picture of the sun and show lines leading away from it? Those lines were supposed to show that there was heat and light coming from the sun… “radiating” from the sun. Well, those kindergarten drawings are right. Those lines “radiating” from the sun are a form of energy. Radiation is a form of energy that comes from atoms and molecules. While science fiction movies make us think radiation is something to be feared, there are many ways that radiation is a great tool.

Types of Radiation

Every day, we breathe, drink and consume small amounts of radiation. That sounds scary, but it is not enough to cause any health problems. Some types of radiation come from nature and can be found in the soil, in the air and in our water. The plants we grow to make our food, the water we drink and the air you are breathing contain natural radiation. Besides being exposed to natural radiation, a small portion of what you will be exposed to in your life will come from doctor and dentist visits, those amounts are not enough to cause harm.

There are two major types of radiation. They are called ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionized radiation is named by letters of the Greek alphabet. The first letter is Alpha and that type of radiation is the weakest. The second letter is Beta and it is stronger and can cause harm if you are not careful. The third letter is Gamma and type of ray is the most powerful.

Another type of ionized radiation is X-ray. If you have been to the dentist or broken a bone, you have been x-rayed. The x-ray lets the doctor or dentist see what is going on inside of you in a noninvasive, painless way. If you listened to the radio in your car on the way to the dentist, you used radio waves, which are also radiation. If you heated your lunch in a microwave, you also used radiation. Scientists even use a type of radiation to find out how old dinosaur bones are.

How We Keep Safe from Radiation

There are some people who will argue that any amount of unnatural radiation is unsafe, but most can agree that when radiation is used for medical purposes, it is an important part of diagnostics and treatment of many illnesses. One type of radiation that you should be cautious of is ultraviolet radiation. Sunburn is caused by radiation from the sun. If you use sunscreen, you are protecting yourself from radiation. Remember that and put it on every time you are going to be out in the sun. People who work in and around radioactive spots should always wear protective clothing, like the heavy bids that dentists drapes over patients before taking an x-ray of their teeth.

Fun Resources

There are many websites that can explain radiation. You can find experiments that will help you see how it works and you can even visit “Radtown” to see the many natural and manufactured sources of radiation.

  • Exploring Solar Beads- Ever wondered how those t-shirts turn colors in the sun? This site will explain the technology that makes it happen.
  • Experimental rays – Learning about radiation can be fun if you try the radiation experiment found on this science page.
  • What is Energy?- A collection or resources and information, including some fun experiments.
  • Experimental Measures – If you want to set up an experiment to measure solar radiation, you will find the details on how to do it on this page.
  • Students’ Corner Radiation Resources – A kid-friendly webpage with lots of resources and information about radiation.
  • Visit a Radioactive City- Have fun visiting “Radtown” and seeing just how often we are around radiation in our everyday lives.
  • Basic Learning – Open me up and find a really cool resource for kids and teachers.
  • Cool Kitchen Tool- I learned more in this little experiment using a microwave than I ever knew before about how microwave ovens work and what radiation is.
  • Blue Ribbon Project – An interesting page on a science fair project using radiation.