About the Activity

In this exciting activity, kids will get to use their engineering design skills to make and build a kite of their own. While testing out the kite designs kids will learn about how lift and air pressure work together to make things fly!

Kites have been constructed and flown for thousands of years. They have been used for fun, for military exercises, and for scientific purposes. You may know that Benjamin Franklin used a kite to show that lightning is electricity. There is also historical evidence that in China kites were used more than 2200 years ago.

Ages: Grades 3-8
Topic: Aeronautics
Estimated Time: 30 minutes

Brought to you by HughesNet and University of Illinois Extension

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These simple materials—along with a few specialty supplies—will get you started.

  • 8.5” X 11” sheet of paper (1 sheet per child)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Plastic straws
  • Sewing thread or string
  • Breezy day or a fan
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Activity Steps

  1. To begin, take a standard 8.5” X 11” sheet of paper and fold corner A to the opposite corner B so that the top edge aligns with the top right edge. Make a crease. There will be a 21/2” rectangle (C) remaining on the bottom. Cut off rectangle C and place it aside to use later.
  2. Fold corner A back towards the center fold so that the bottom edge of corner A aligns with the middle fold. Make a crease. Turn over and repeat on the other side for corner B.
  3. Fold corner A back down so that the top edge of corner A aligns with the opening of the fold. Turn over and repeat on the other side for corner B. Gently unfold and stretch the paper out so that A and B are facing up. The kite should look as shown. Fold corner A back towards the center fold so that the bottom edge of corner A aligns with the middle fold. Make a crease. Turn over and repeat on the other side for corner B.
Step-by-step instructions on building a kite
  1. Place a 1” piece of tape at the top corner of the kite on both sides along the spine (middle fold). Punch a hole along the spine midway through the tape (about ½” from the top corner). Use sewing thread to attach the kite tail to the kite through this hole.
  2. Punch holes through corners A and B. Loop thread through these holes and tie them together to make a bridle. Keep the rest of the spool attached and loosen an amount of string to use as the kite’s line and handle.
  3. FLY YOUR KITE! Try making some improvements to your kite to help it fly better. What happens if you adjust the length of the tail or the length of the bridle? What happens if you make the kite larger? and attach the rest of the spool to the bridle. This will complete the kite bridle.

Bonus Activity (Optional)
Design, build and fly a kite of your own. Use what you’ve learned about various kite designs and from flying this small kite.

  • Investigate other small paper kites like sled kites or delta kites.
  • Add struts using straws or other material.
  • Consider various points for attaching the bridle.

Reflection Questions
Questions for your kids and teens.

  1. What happens when you pull in or let out the kite line?
  2. If you attach a string to a balloon. What happens to the balloon in the wind? Does it fly?
  3. How is a balloon different from a kite?
  4. How is a paper airplane different from a kite?
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Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

Lift caused by changes in air pressure overcomes gravity and the line keeps the kite from moving away, so it moves up. Kites come in many shapes and the lines are attached in a variety of positions. The earliest kites were flat kites that fly at a low angle. In the late 1800’s the box kite design appeared, followed by tetrahedral box kites and delta kites.

4-H youth learning a STEM activity with kites

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