Remember what it was like to escape under a world of colour?
To pump your arms as hard as you can, then dash under the parachute and trap the air inside.
Looking around at your classmates’ faces beaming in the red, blue, green sunlight streaming through the cloth. Giggling as your hair grew staticky and groaning when your teacher said it was time to stand up.
Then doing it all over again.
There is something magical about parachute play. It seems so unconventional compared to traditional phys-ed exercises. Kids aren’t racing or trying to score goals; they’re just having fun. The non-competitive play is very inclusive, so different abilities don’t matter.
That’s not to say parachute play isn’t great exercise. You can include cardio and work on perceptual motor skills. The games develop rhythm and strengthen shoulder, arm and hand muscles. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to shake up traditional teaching methods. Parachute play encourages cooperation, turn-taking and sharing and how to follow directions.
We all love parachute day, but what to do besides waving it around? Here are 5 activities to combine parachute play with learning and exercise:
1. Mushroom or Igloo
The classic parachute game! Hold the parachute taut, lower it, then raise it quickly and duck under it. Sit on the inner edges to trap the air inside.
2. Treasure Hunt
Make waves with the parachute and call out a child’s name and an item. They have to dash underneath and find that item before the parachute comes down and “tags” them. The treasures can be anything you’d like, from toys or prizes to letters or numbers.
3. Make it Musical
Act out some of your favourite Nursery Rhymes using parachutes. Kids can sing along as they follow the directions in the song. KidsMusicExperience has some amazing videos demonstrating how to perform these with your kids.
Kids run under the parachute and switch places with one another. The criteria for switching is completely up to you! You can pick birthday months, letters of first names or favourite colours.
For a little math practice, you can number each child and have them switch places with whoever has the same number. You could have all the odd numbers swap or even practice greater than/less than.
Place a bunch of light balls on the parachute and try to get them all to bounce off. You can play this as a group or split everyone up into two teams. One team tries to get the balls off and the other tries to keep them on.
Bonus: Parachute play can be just as fun for bigger kids too! It’s a great way to teach about static electricity, force and motion dynamics, and air pressure.
Static: Place a child underneath the parachute and have the other students drag the fabric back and forth over their head. When they lift the parachute, the static electricity will cling to the child’s hair and make it stand on end.
Force and Motion: Touch on the basic concepts of physics with how you’re able to make the parachute ripple small or big waves depending on the force exerted, and how the tension affects the motion. Add balls and other objects on top of the parachute to shop how force travels and dissipates.
Air Pressure: The classic Mushroom or Igloo activity is perfect for this. Why is the parachute staying inflated? How do we create the differences in air pressure? What happens when the air pressure equalizes?
When it comes to picking a parachute, it really depends on your needs.
We recommend the Rainbow School Parachutes With Handles. It comes in 3 sizes, with sturdy handles and a rope around the edge for additional hands. For even more parachute activities, check out 3-2-1: Time For Parachute Fun for fun ideas, or the Parachute Accessory Pack for everything you need, including balls of different sizes, beanbags, dice and more.