Air Play

While we don’t often think about the air around us, giving kids simple ways to playfully experiment with the air and wind is a super way to inspire discovery, curiosity and STEM skills. Here we share some of our favorite ways to help kids take inspiration from scientists and use homemade tools to discover and play with the air around them. 

The Guide

Explore air resistance 

Try some of these ways to help kids explore the concept of air resistance:

1. Air resistance paper experiment
Offer kids a piece of paper and wonder what would happen if dropped. Then, test it out and notice together how fast the paper falls and how it moves through the air. Welcome kids to try it again from a different height (on top of a stool, chair or couch). Wonder what would happen if you change the shape of the paper. How fast does the paper fall when it is folded? Crumpled into a ball?

2. Explore air resistance with nature treasures!
Invite kids to collect leaves, grass, sticks, tree seeds and other objects from nature and to make predictions as to which objects will float down slowly and which will drop quickly. Then, test it out!
3. Make a parachute 
To make your own DIY parachute, use string to attach an egg carton (your basket) to a paper towel or light dish cloth (your chute). Invite kids to drop the parachute and notice what happens. 

Continue testing out the parachute by dropping it from different heights. What happens if there is a “passenger” in the parachute basket? Add a nature treasure and observe together how the parachute drops with the extra weight. Experiment with adding passengers of different weights or test how many nature treasures can be added to the parachute.

Explore the wind

Step 1: Make a wind tool.
Try one or more of our favorite ways to make a simple tool kids can use to explore the wind:

1. Paper Bag Kite
  • On the open end of a brown bag, use a hole puncher to make two holes on either side of the bag.
  • Tie twine through the holes to make two handles. 
  • Use tape to secure strips of ribbon to the bottom of the bag or punch holes and secure ribbon with knots.
2. Ribbon Kite
  • Cut ribbon into 1 yard lengths.
  • Fold pieces of ribbon in half and pass the folded center through the center of a mason jar ring, or a piece of cardboard with the center cut out.
  • Thread the tails through the center and pull them through to form a knot. 
  • Then, tie a regular knot to keep it in place.
3. Wind Flag
  • Get an old or cheap bed sheet and a good pair of scissors. You can also use an old shirt, pants or any fabric that has some stiffness to it. We fold and cut sheets into triangles of various lengths. The different sizes appeal to different kids and allow kids to experiment with flag size.
  • Decorate the flags: Give kids space, time and materials to decorate their flags using paint, markers or any other art materials you have on hand. Our favorite way is to make paints from natural materials
  • Find flag poles: Gather sticks that are more or less straight and about 1 yard in length. A stick with small bumps and notches may help keep the flag in place.
  • Attach flags to poles: Fold over about 1-2 inches of fabric along the edge of the flag where you’ll put the pole. Next, make cuts (about ½” wide) every few inches along that fold. Then, open the folded edge and weave the stick back and forth through the holes. Finally, tie a rubber band around the top of the flag and stick to keep the flag secure through spirited hunting and waving.

Step 2: Use your tool to explore the wind!
Here are some of our favorite ways to explore the wind:
  • Hunt for the wind: How does the wind move the ribbons/flag? Can your child tell if there is wind just by looking at their wind tool? How can your child tell if it is a strong wind? How can you tell what direction the wind is blowing in? 
  • Create your own wind: Run down a hill with kites in hand to feel the wind (and the wonderful vestibular input). Spin and dance with your wind tool and notice how it moves.
  • Find the windiest spot: Go for a wind walk and bring your wind tool to find out where the wind is the very windiest today.
  • Wind parade: Wave your flags/ribbons as you sing or march to the beat of your favorite song. 
  • Explore other wind tools: Catch wind in a pillowcase, lift a bed sheet up and down to create air movement and hold up leaves and grasses to see how they flap in the wind. 

Why is this activity great for kids?

Using simple tools to play with the air and wind helps kids develop super problem solving skills like observation, making predictions and experimentation, all while providing an introduction to STEM concepts like gasses and air resistance.  Twirling, spinning and running with wind flags and kites also supports active movement, gross motor skills and the vestibular system.

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