How To Make A Backyard Kite Using Recycled Plastic Grocery Bags
If you have a young kids, there's no doubt that you've heard the phrase "I'm bored" at least a few times in your life.
If you're kid is tired of the same old games and toys, why not try this simple project that will get them outside playing, running around and burning off some of that pent up energy?
Bag Kites are a way to recycle materials you have around the house anyway, can be made with very little adult supervision and will provide your child with hours of cheap fun.
You can also use this activity as an educational lesson to learn about gravity, air pressure and recycling.
List of Supplies
- Plastic Grocery Bags with handles
- Lightweight string or yarn (8-10 feet)
- Open yard or field
Even if you mostly use paper bags or reusable ones, it's likely that you have some plastic grocery bags stashed around the house.
Before using the bags to make a kite, make sure there are not holes in the bottom. You are trying to create an effect much like when the wind catches a sail or parachute so anything other than very small holes will make your bag less likely to fly.
- Cut off about 10 feet of string. Note: If the string is very lightweight, like kite string, you may be able to make it even longer. Consider the space where you will be flying the kite and cut according to the area. Also note if there are any trees where the bag might get tangled if it goes too high.
- Gather the bag handles together and then tie them together in a knot with one end of your string.
- Take the bag outside and turn the bag so that it catches the breeze, filling it with air and causing it to puff up.
- If there is not much of a breeze you can run to make your bag fly high into the air.
Tie two or more bags together on one string if it is an extra breezy day. Add extra string, stretch it out and see how high it can fly.
Hold it while you ride a bike.
Use it while you skateboard or ride a scooter.
*Note: Proper safety equipment should always be used when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.
Ask your kids what the effect of speed has on the height of the bag both when they run or when the breeze is stronger.
The Science Behind the Bag
If you would like to make this educational for your child, consider adding a little mini lesson about how a parachute works.
The bag acts like a parachute, creating a dome that fills with the air. As the dome fills up, the air acts as an opposite force against the gravity that would normally pull it down.
Experiment: Take different weight objects and tie them to the bag parachute and throw them in the air.
Note the time that it takes for each object to fall to the ground.
Does the force of gravity act differently based on the weight of the objects using it as a parachute?
Interesting Facts About the Parachute
- According to Popular Mechanics, parachutes, or at least the concept of parachutes were developed by Leonardo da Vinci.
- In 1783 the first successful landing using a modified parachute was completed by Louis-Sebastien Lenormand. Interestingly, this jump also inspired the creation of the hot air balloon by a man named Montgolifer who was at the jump.
- The first jump with a packed parachute and ripcord was completed by Georgia Broadwick in 1914.
- Parachutes were first widely used by the military in World War II.
- NASA has even used parachutes to land space shuttles on earth and vehicles on Mars!
- Parachutes that are square shaped are now used widely. Note the bottom of the grocery bag is also more square shape. The shape helps to create even more flow and air resistance.
Clean Up When You Are Finished
Plastic bags are hazardous to wildlife. It is very important that you make sure to remove the bag and recycle it after you are done with your Bag Kite or if it gets a hole in it and you need to replace it.
Plastic bags can harm wildlife in the following ways:
- They can eat them. They then get stuck inside of the animal and kill them.
- They can get caught in the plastic and suffocate.
- They are made from oil which is not a renewable resource and can cause pollution.
- Predators in the ocean think that floating bags are jellyfish and ingest them and die.
- Plastic breaks down at a very slow rate so it can pollute and pose a hazard for a long time.
Ways To Recycle or Reuse Plastic Bags
There are many ways you can recycle or reuse plastic bags:
- Check your local grocery store for a recycling bin
- Use the plastic bag as a trash can liner for a smaller bin.
- Donate them to your local thrift shop for reuse.
- Use them to dispose of pet waste
- Use them to wrap and dispose of harmful waste (follow state or federal guidelines)
This Project Can Be Educational And Fun
While flying a bag kite can be a fun way to spend an afternoon, there are also ways to learn both about how parachutes work against gravity and how plastic bags in general impact the environment.
Children learn best when they can be interactive and hands on and this activity has all of that and more.