Blast Off! How to Build an Awesome Straw Rocket with Your Kids

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I’ve got an easy experiment for you to build today. It takes a few minutes to actually put together, but could provide hours of fun and learning! Today, we’ll become engineers and astronauts to launch a (straw) rocket up into space!

This simple yet engaging experiment will spark your child’s imagination and introduce them to the basic principles of physics and aerodynamics.

Have a great launch!

Build and fly a straw rocket with fins engineering experiment for kids

How to make the Blast Off! Straw Rocket engineering experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

Supplies needed for the Blast Off! Straw Rocket engineering experiment

Before you start

Since we are handling scissors, please watch your child while cutting out the rocket.

Also, there is some force behind the launch! Keep an open area where you’re launching to make sure no one gets hit by the rocket.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Cut the paper to the right size

Cut your paper so it won’t wrap around the straw too many times

First, we’re going to build the body of the rocket (the portion that will rest on the straw).

The first thing you want to ensure is that the paper you are using is no longer than the straw. If you’re using an index card, you should be fine. If you are using paper/foam/something else, you will want to measure it against your straw and cut out what you need.

Ultimately, you will end up something about 6″ or less. As for the width, you only need an inch or two to wrap around the straw.

Step 2: Build the body of the rocket

Place a piece of tape, half on the paper and half off, the sticky side of the tape facing up.

Placing the tape half on the paper

Lay your straw on the table with the paper sitting under it.

Wrap the side with no tape on it loosely around the straw. THIS PART IS IMPORTANT! You want it loose enough that it will not get stuck on the straw during take-off, but not so loose that air can escape.

Roll the paper around the straw loosely

If you don’t get it right at first, all you have to do is remove the tape and try again. Even better if you can troubleshoot with your child!

How the rocket body fits over the straw (loosely and moves freely!)

Step 3: Build the nose cone

Once you have the body of the rocket built, we want to create the nose cone for the rocket.

What does a nose cone do for our rocket?

The nose cone of a rocket helps it become more aerodynamic and keeps air from slowing it down.

Fold the end of the body into a triangular shape and tape it to hold.

One side of the paper folded into a triangular shape
Taped nose cone so no air can enter the front and it stays aerodynamic

Step 4: Print out, decorate, and cut out fins

If you haven’t already, head up to the Supplies section and print out the free printable I made for you with 4 different fin shapes. Once it’s printed, have your child decorate them and you can cut them out.

Printed free printable with fin shapes
Colored in fins
All fins cut out with the fin shape near each

Have a conversation with your child about choosing a fin shape! Ask questions like:

  • How do you think the fin shape might affect our launch?
  • Which fin shape do you think could get our rocket to fly the furthest? Why do you think that?

I found a great publication about the best fin shape for model rocketsOpens in a new tab., if you like technical stuff!

Get your preschooler involved: Let your child make a hypothesis here!

Step 5: Attach your fins

Tape and fold your fins onto the rocket body

Choose which fin shape you would like to start with and attach them to the body of the rocket.

You will be attaching all four fins to the rocket, spaced evenly. I taped each fin to the rock and folded it about 90 degrees.

Step 6: Blast off!

Now it’s time to put our rocket to the test.

Insert the straw into the rocket and prepare for launch. Clear the space in front of where you’ll be launching to ensure safety.

Insert the straw into the rocket

Blow into the straw and your rocket will launch!

Once you’ve launched the first rocket, you could switch out the fins and see which fin shape resulted in the most distance.

Blow into the straw and watch your rocket launch!

Get your preschooler involved: Have your child measure how far the rocket flew using a tape measure if you have one. It’s not necessary to know how to read a tape measure, but we can compare the number of inches/meters it flew!

The engineering behind the Blast Off! Straw Rocket engineering experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Physics and aerodynamics
  • Creativity
  • Fine motor skills

How it works

The straw rocket experiment harnesses the principles of physics and aerodynamics to launch a simple rocket.

Children design and construct the rocket using an index card, construction paper, or any other sturdy paper for the body and fins, and a straw for propulsion.

When they blow air through the straw, it creates thrust, propelling the rocket forward.

The rocket’s fins provide stability during flight, helping to send the rocket on a straight trajectory. We can try different shapes of fins to see which helps us fly the furthest.

Through this hands-on activity, kids learn about air pressure, force, and how different shapes and designs affect flight performance.

Physics and aerodynamics

Through this straw rocket experiment, children can learn the basics of physics and aerodynamics.

They will observe firsthand how the force of their breath creates thrust, propelling the rocket into the air. They’ll also learn about air pressure and how it affects the rocket’s flight trajectory.

These fundamental scientific concepts lay the groundwork for future learning and understanding of more complex physical principles.

Creativity

Designing and decorating the rocket allows children to tap into their creativity and imagination. They get the opportunity to envision and bring to life their own unique rocket designs, exploring various shapes, colors, and patterns.

This aspect of the experiment fosters creativity, original thinking, and problem-solving skills as they visualize and create their perfect rocket.

Fine motor skills

Cutting, folding, and taping the rocket components together enhance fine motor skills, which is an extremely important part of a child’s development.

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