Wind and Flight – STEM Activities for Kids


Today’s themes were Wind, Balloons, and Flight. These could be combined in one session, or split into two or three classes.


Question of the Day: What can the wind blow around?

Sorting activity – Can the Wind Move It? On a big table, or on the floor, put out ways to create a breeze, such as bellows, paper fans, balloon pumps, hair dryers and straws to blow through. Then put an assortment of objects out. Have children try blowing the objects around the table. For young kids (age 3 – 4), put out two bowls to sort into, labeled “Blows in the Wind” and “the Wind Can’t Move It”. Put out heavy objects the wind obviously can’t move, and light ones that it can. img_20161119_135439041For older children, put out three bowls “Easy to Move with Wind”, “Hard to Move with Wind” and “Didn’t Move” and a wide variety of objects. They’ll discover that, in general, lightest weight things are easiest to move, heavier things are harder, and heavy things don’t move. But, the strength of the wind matters, and the shape of the object matters. (source)

Playing with Fans: Set up a fan and put scarves or streamers or balloons or other lightweight objects out so the children can hold them up, see them blow in the wind, then let go and watch them flutter away. Optional: put out objects that are too heavy for the air from the fan to lift so they can discover that.

We also have some specialized equipment that we used in this class:

  • the scarf cannon (click on that link to learn how to build your own). We aimed the tube straight up at the ceiling so the scarves shot straight up and out, or you could float a lightweight plastic ball on the current of air.


  • the wind tube (see video below. Tutorial for how to build one is here). There’s endless fun in testing out various items in the tube: we tested paper cups – didn’t float on the air current, but would roll around in circles on the surface of the fan; snow cone cups will float – if you turn them upside down; scarves shoot out the top, then flutter to the ground, making them fun to catch; we have a little plastic Frisbee that never escapes – it just bangs around inside the tube. My favorite is food trays (what we call “snack boats”). Not only do they float on their own – but even better, you can put toys inside of them that are too heavy to float, but the boat catches the air so well that it can carry those toys up.
      • We also had kids build paper “wind tube flyers” using designs we found at the Orlando Science Museum.

img_20161119_135453983 img_20161119_093858428

  • Elefun Game – we found this at a garage sale. It works sort of like a mini wind tube, but it’s a REALLY weak fan, so it barely floats out the fabric butterflies


Craft – Sailboats. We made sailboats using corks from wine bottles, rubber bands, popsicle sticks and stiff plastic sails. Read about my design process and see the “how to” tutorial here.

Water table: We filled a water table, then gave each kid a straw (labelled with their name) so they could use the straw to blow their sailboat around the water.


Building Project: We also put out the Duplo pinwheel kit, which encourages children to try following directions to build a pre-designed project, and a few toy pinwheels for children to explore.

img_20161119_154156496Group art project: The blustery day collage. Teacher Cym painted a large picture of a tree with some swirls and spirals to indicate the wind blowing across it. The kids glued on dried leaves, feathers, other things that would swirl in the wind. [option: you could ask the children things like – “should we glue a brick on the picture? Or rocks? No? Why not?” and explore the idea of what blows in the wind and what does not.]

Easy crafts: Teach how to accordion fold a fan out of paper. Cut a spiral of paper so it becomes a wind spinner. (we tested these in the wind tube too…)(

img_20161119_093757705 img_20161119_093850432

Books to read: We read and Face the Wind by Cobb, which is one of the best non-fictions for this 3 – 7 year old age group that I have read!  Just a really nice combination of readable text, nice illustrations, clear concepts, examples that are familiar to kids, and ideas for experiments kids can do. (I did skip a few of these ideas when reading out loud, both for sake of time, and because it can be hard for kids to resist wanting to try every experiment they head a book describe, and we weren’t going to be doing all of them. (After reading it, I looked up all the other books by Cobb, and added many to our curriculum. Vicki Cobb has a video here where she talks through why she wrote this book the way she did, and offers teachers/parents more information which can help enhance their read-aloud of the book.)

Other options: Wind by Bauer is a simple non-fiction book about wind. Feel the Wind by Dorros also looks like a good option. Mouse’s First Spring, or one of the many story books out there about things getting swept away in the wind. Other ones I’d like to check out include Like a Windy Day and the Fantastic Flying Books. Some others I’ve heard recommendations for are: Aesop’s Fable about the Sun and the Wind, One Windy Wednesday, Someone Bigger (about a kite), Frog and Toad – the Kite, Who Took the Farmer’s Hat, Gilberto and the Wind, Millicent and the Wind.

Balloons: The only balloon activity we did in this class session was that we got helium balloons, and we tested to see how much weight the balloons could lift. There’s lots more balloon activities in this post.


Kites: We built simple kites with paper and bamboo skewers. This is definitely an adult-assistance project for kids. We then tried flying them outside, but didn’t have enough wind that day. (Here are directions for lots of kites… kite

Paper Airplanes! You can put out books with ideas of how to fold them, or print designs from, or create a template where all they need to do is fold along the lines. Or just put out paper, and let the parents re-live their childhood hobbies.

IMG_20170916_131647216 (2)Gliders. Cut strips of index cards or paper. Tape them to make two rings – one big and one small. For example, a 4 inch strip and a 6 inch strip. Tape one to one end of a straw, and the other to the other end. Hold it up and throw it like a paper airplane.

Straw Rockets: Take a piece of paper, and fold it around the top third of a straw. Fold over the top and tape it closed. It wants to fit well, but not too tightly. Then you blow into the straw and the rocket shoots through the air. Simple Play Ideas has a super simple version of this. Buggy and Buddy has a template for a fancier art project version. JPL NASA has the most science-y version, for older kids with good dexterity.

Recommended Books to Read:

      • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Beaty. Rosie dreams of being an engineer, and builds cool stuff out of trash, but then her uncle laughs at her and she stops inventing till Aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter in her later years) comes to visit. They build a heli-o-cheese-copter. It only flies for a moment and Rosie is discouraged, till Aunt Rose says “it’s the perfect first try! This great flop is over, it’s time for the next”. They keep building together. It’s exactly the kind of book I like to read in our Family Inventors class to inspire kids to be creative inventors.
      • Violet the Pilot is a fabulous book about a girl who tinkers in the family junkyard and makes fabulous flying machines and flies to the rescue.  I love this book too, it’s just a little long for circle.
      • I am Amelia Earhart is a nice biography of a girl/woman who loved to fly. Starts with a child building a cart to fly, then seeing an air show, then learning to fly. Writing style and comics style illustrations appeal to 4 – 7 year olds.
      • The Wondrous Whirligig: The Wright Brothers’ First Flying Machine
        by Glass. A story of Wilbur and Orville Wright, told in a way that kids in grade 1 – 3 could engage in / relate to. It tells of them as children and a failed whirligig flying machine, It’s based loosely on stories of their childhood. Too long for our class of 3 – 7 year olds, but my 5 year old son enjoyed having it read to him.
      • Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine  by Lasky &Manders. The story begins at Princess Briar Rose’s party, just before she and all her court fall asleep (i.e. become the story of Sleeping Beauty). Two brothers work with Daniel Bernoulli (an eccentric inventor based VERY loosely on a real inventor from the 1700’s) to invent a flying machine to come to the rescue. Goofy and fun for ages 5 – 8. A little long for a circle time read-aloud.
      • The Boy and the Airplane. A wordless book with nice soft illustrations. Tells the story of a boy who was given a toy plane. He plays with it a lot, then it ends up on a roof. We see time pass as he plants a tree and waits for it to get tall enough to reach the roof… he’s an old man by then. He climbs the tree, gets the plane, plays for a bit, then gives it away to a little girl.
      • Amazing Airplanes by Mitton and Parker. For 3 – 6 year olds.

Have fun experimenting!


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