Have your kids ever asked to make a parachute? A simple, kids parachute can lead to discussions and trials of many air resistance experiments. Here on the Kids Activities blog, we have created, tested and provided easy to explain information for you to play parachute with your kids!
Make a Parachute
We kinda do things backwards in our house. Generally, my kids make something cool, modify it a bit, and then start to ask the question “How does this work?” Case in point, last week my son came up with the idea to make a parachute for his cars. So he searched the house for materials and went to town building it from a plastic bag and some yarn. He ran up & down the staircase, throwing it down to see it float. He fiddled with it when it didn’t work and dropped it down using different types of force. And only after he had exhausted all the ways he could think of, he came to me to ask how it worked.
Well son, Air Resistance occurs when a moving object is pushing against the air, which slows the moving object down. Air resistance helps airplanes fly, windmills move, and parachutes to fall gently to the ground. Air resistance can also be dangerous at high speeds, such as in hurricanes or tornados.
Anything that moves through the air is met with resistance. A good way to “see” air resistance is with a helium balloon. If you were to hold the balloon on a string, it floats vertically. Once you begin to move with the balloon, it starts to get pulled down and drags behind you. That is because the air resistance is dragging it down.
Let’s Make a Parachute and Test Air Resistance Experiments
- plastic grocery bag
- dinner plate
- yarn or string
- hole punch
- heavy object to act as our “parachuter”
- Using the plate, trace a large circle on one side of the plastic bag and cut it out
- Mark four spots around the circle with a marker, equal distance apart
- Cover each spot with a piece of tape to make the area less resistant to tear
- Punch a hole out of each spot
- Take 4 pieces of the same length of yarn and attach one to each of the holes
- Tie the 4 pieces of yarn to the parachuter
- Find a place to drop your parachute that will give you some height – top of the staircase, off the top of a jungle gym, etc.
Remember, you want the parachute to drop slowly to the ground. Drop a “parachuter” of similar weight without the parachute off the same place and see what happens. Ask your child why they think the parachute makes it drop slowly.
Here is why it works: When you release the parachute, the weight (parachuter) pulls down on the strings and opens a large surface area of material that uses air resistance to slow it down. The larger the parachute, the more air resistance, the slower it will fall. We had fun trying different sized parachutes and weights to see how quickly or slowly they fell.
I just love it when my kids practice science in their everyday play!
More Kids Activities
When your kids ask to make a parachute you will now have an idea on what will work and why it works. Yes, even a simple kids parachute can lead to an afternoon of air resistance experiments! Here at the Kids Activities Blog you will find quite a few interesting experiments like this one:
- The QM Science Spot: LOTS of Experiments like the play parachute experiments.
- Easy to teach Scientific Method for Kids – Gravity Experiment.
- How to Lift an Ice Cube with a String easy and simple science experiments.