What is a force?

A force is simply a push or a pull in a particular direction. Forces result from an object’s interaction with another thing.

In physics, forces are illustrated by arrows. An arrow in that same direction will show the direction of the workforce.

What are the different types of force?

There are two main types of forces: contact forces and non-contact forces.

Contact force

Contact forces result from two objects touching each other.

The following forces are contact forces:

  • Frictional force: whenever objects rub against each other, they cause friction. Friction works against the movement of an object and acts in the opposite direction.
  • Normal force: the force that supports the weight of an object on a surface. It’s the force that the ground or a surface pushes back up with. It helps us not to fall through the floor!
  • Tension force: a pulling force exerted by a string or chain on an object.
  • Applied force: a force used on an object by another object or person.
  • Air resistance force: a type of frictional force that acts on an object as it moves through the air.
  • Spring force: a force applied upon an object by a compressed or stretched spring attached to it.

Non-contact force

Non-contact forces are at play when an object can push or pull another thing without coming into contact with it.

The following forces are non-contact forces:

  • Gravitational force: a force by which an object attracts another object towards itself. All things have a gravitational force, but it is most noticeable in large objects like the Earth or the Sun. For example, due to its gravitational force, the Earth pulls all things towards itself.
  • Electrical force: a force exerted between two charged objects.
  • Magnetic force: otherwise known as magnetism, this is a force that attracts or repels magnetic objects. For example, iron, nickel, and cobalt are magnetic metals, so they are attracted to magnets.

What are push forces?

When children first learn about forces in year one, they’ll learn about the push and pull forces. A push force is a force that pushes an object away from the source of the force.

There are lots of examples of push forces at work in day-to-day life. Pushing a door shut, pushing a trolley in a supermarket, or kicking a football are all great examples.

You might also want to look at swings to help your children understand push forces. For example, if a child is sitting on a swing and you push them, they are propelled away from you due to your effort. This is the result of a push force. Equally, if they’re swinging by themselves, when they kick at the ground, they have pushed away from the floor and into the air – another excellent example of a push force.

What are pull forces?

Pull forces are the opposite of push forces – they pull an object toward the source of the force. Examples include picking up a school bag, dragging a chair across the room, and tightening your shoelaces.

To help children understand pull forces, why not play a game of tug-of-war? This is a fun and simple exercise to help them know pull forces. By pulling on the rope, each team will be able to move it closer toward them. Whichever team can exert the larger pull force will win!

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