Go Fly a Kite! An engineering experiment for young kids

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Take a look outside for me, would you? Is it a windy day? If so, let’s teach our kids how to build a kite and how kites fly!

Building a kite teaches your child about engineering and physics, but it will also allow them to exercise their creativity and have a blast outdoors.

This engineering experiment is a fun outdoor activity for kids that is jam-packed with education. Not only that, but it works their fine motor skills, allows them to be as creative as they want, and gets them outside.

go fly a kite! engineering experiment for preschoolers

How to make the Go Fly a Kite! engineering experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

Supplies for the Go Fly a Kite! engineering experiment

Before you start

Since we are using scissors to make our kite, you will want to keep a close eye on your child while you use scissors.

Instructions

Here is how to do the Go Fly a Kite! experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Line up your printer paper

Lining up the paper so it fits a dowel pointing vertically

Place your two sheets of printer paper long ways with one of them overlapping on top of the other.

Using one of your dowels, place it on top of your overlapping sheets of printer paper. We want to overlap the paper enough to cover the length of the dowel.

Once the length is right, tape together the two sheets of printer paper.

Taping together the paper

Step 2: Line up the dowels on the paper

Place the vertical dowel in the middle of the paper and the horizontal dowel between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way down the paper

Take your two wooden dowels and lay them perpendicular to each other, forming a cross. To make it better resemble a common kite, move the horizontal dowel up a little, somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way down from the top of the paper.

Get your preschooler involved: Allow your preschooler to glue the dowels to the paper

Step 3: Trace out and cut the paper

Using a ruler to draw out the kite body

Before you tape down the dowels, hold them down and use a ruler to make an outline of your kite (it’s easier to cut the paper without the dowels taped on).

It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Step 5 (optional): Decorate your kite!

Decorating the kite. Get creative!

If you have some crayons or markers handy, let your preschooler have fun decorating the kite! This is their chance to get creative and have fun with it.

Step 6: Attach your dowels

Attaching the dowels to the paper using tape

Using tape or glue, attach the dowels to your kite.

I found it easiest to tape one dowel down at a time. You’ll want to leave some space and not tape down where the dowels intersect. This is where we will tie the spool of string and need access to the dowels.

Step 7: Attach the tail

Attaching the tail

Cut a long strip of paper or fabric and attach it to the bottom point of the diamond. I had some extra fabric lying around, so that is what we used. This will be the tail of your kite and will help to keep it stable in the air.

Why do we need a tail on our kite?

The tail is what keeps our kite stable when flying. It adds some needed weight to the bottom of the kite so it doesn’t spin out of control. There is an art to how long your tail is though: if it is too short, it will not add enough weight and your kite will spin anyway. If it’s too long, it could be too heavy and drag down your kite, making it unable to fly.

This is all part of experimenting!

Get your preschooler involved: If you’re using paper or ribbon, allow your child to decorate the tail of the kite with crayons or markers!

Step 8: Tie on the String

Tying on the string

Tie one end of the string to the intersection of the two dowels, making sure the knot is secure. Then, take the string and wind it around the spool. Leave enough slack for your child to hold onto the spool while the kite is in the air.

Step 9: Test it Out!

Take your kite and your preschooler outside on a windy day. Find an open space with plenty of room to run around. Hold onto the spool of string and run with your preschooler, allowing the wind to lift the kite into the air.

If the kite doesn’t take off right away, adjust the tail until it becomes more stable.

The engineering behind the Go Fly a Kite! engineering experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Engineering and Physics
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Patience and Perseverance

How it works

Building a kite is a great experiment to learn about science AND engineering at the same time, while also exercising some creativity. It allows your child to build a toy that they have likely used before, which also gives some real-world application.

Engineering and Physics

Preschoolers can learn the basics of engineering and physics by building a kite.

Here are just a few lessons they learn when building and flying a kite that you can easily teach them:

Physics of kite flying

In order to fly, your kite will need the Four Forces of Flight (lift, drag, thrust, and weight).

  • Lift: the upward force that pushes our kite into the air and helps it fly
  • Weight: lift is opposed by weight, which pulls our kite down (our tail adds weight to the kite)
  • Drag: the air resistance. It’s caused by the difference in air pressure between the front and back of the kite
  • Thrust: forward force, which is from either you holding the string tight and the moving air, OR it’s from you running and producing the moving air

I’ve oversimplified these four forces, but if you want a more detailed description, I really like this one from the SmithsonianOpens in a new tab. specifically geared toward kite-flying.

Adjusting the tail for stability

We just talked through the Four Forces of Flight, and as it turns out, the kite’s tail plays a big role in those forces.

Our kite’s tail works by providing weight to the kite (remember, our downward force opposing lift) and adds to the drag on the lower end of the kite. This drag helps to shift the center of pressure toward the back of the kite, bringing it closer to the center of gravity. By doing so, the tail helps to stabilize the kite, preventing it from tilting or spinning excessively.

Creativity and Imagination

Building a kite is a chance for preschoolers to exercise their creativity and imagination. They can choose to decorate the kite with crayons or markers, and can even come up with their own designs. This allows them to express themselves in a fun and engaging way while developing their artistic skills.

This experiment also gives your preschooler the opportunity to practice using simple tools like scissors, tape, and glue (good for when they start kindergarten!).

Patience and Perseverance

Building a kite takes time and effort, and preschoolers will need to exercise patience and perseverance to complete the task. They will need to follow the step-by-step instructions carefully and work through any challenges that arise. By doing so, they will learn the value of persistence and problem-solving, skills that are essential for success in all areas of life.

More experiments to try out with your child

FAQ about the Go Fly a Kite! engineering experiment

How long should the tail of my kite be?

The length of the kite tail can vary, but a general guideline is about 3 to 5 times the length of your kite. There are a few factors that may mean you will have to adjust the length, like the wind conditions (may need a longer tail with stronger winds) and the material you use for your kite (a heavier kite may not need as long of a tail).

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