Kites are unique toys that pique the interest of kids worldwide.
With nothing more than simple engineering and science in hand, you can enjoy the breeze, the great outdoors, and good, old-fashioned aerodynamics. Kites are easy to make, too. All you need are some everyday household items, and you can enjoy some exciting times outdoors with the kids.
Take an adventure through all the things there is to know about kites, an easy guide on making your own, and how they work. This DIY kite-making and kite-flying activity is an excellent bonding and educational activity for you and your young Einsteins.
What You Need
After a quick stroll through the house, you will undoubtedly find everything you need to get started on your kite. If you don’t find what you need at home, a quick run to the hardware or local art store will get you all the materials and instruments you need for this fun scientific adventure.
Here are the things you will need to search for:
- One 20-inch Stick (51cm)
- One 24-inch Stick (61cm)
- A large plastic bag (or some paper if you prefer that over plastic bags)
- A ruler
- Long String
- A thin but long piece of cloth
- Art materials (optional)
These materials and measurements aren’t the only tools and ways to create a kite. As long as you understand the roles they play in the simple mechanism, you may alter them however you like.
The large plastic bag, for example, can be easily replaced by a lightweight like paper – which is a prominent alternative. The stick sizes can be changed as well, given you can adjust the way you cut the plastic or piece on which you’ll be mounting it. There’s no one way to do this, and an understanding of how each component contributes to the final product’s function will give you the freedom to make alterations and adjustments any way you like.
The Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Kite
Let’s get started! Lay all the materials and resources out onto an accessible place that you can reach with ease. If you intend to do some coloring and give this activity an artistic twist, maybe find a surface that will allow your kids to do their thing freely.
Step One: Frame Visualization
Like every great experiment, you will start with the framework. Although in this case, the framework is an actual frame that you’ll soon attach to plastic or paper.
Start by making a T-shape with the sticks that you have. Remember that you will be forming the classic kite-diamond shape for this activity, so the longer stick, the one that measures 24 inches, should be vertical while the shorter stick, the 20-inch one, is horizontal.
The frame should be in the shape of a lowercase T, so it must look similar to a cross. This form will also mean that the horizontal stick should be marginally closer to the upper tip of the vertical stick than its lower tip.
You may make each of the stickers longer if you wish. Just make sure that the long vertical stick is four inches longer than the short vertical stick.
Step Two: Making the Frame
The next step you need to accomplish is to put the sticks together to create the frame. After finding the length and width you’re comfortable with, you can start fastening the two sticks together with some twine or string in the area where the sticks cross.
Wrap the string around the sticks twice, then finish it with a knot to ensure it’s secure and stable. If you want to make sure that it’s extra safe, you can give it a day or two of super glue and press the sticks together at the joint.
You must keep the sticks at a right angle with each other as you attach them. Keep the horizontal stick positioned straight across the vertical stick.
Step Three: A Notch for the String
The string is what will allow you and your kids to control the kite, so there has to be an area on the sticks where it can latch onto securely. Slice 1-inch or 2-inch horizontal notches at the extremities of each stick. These notches have to be on the upper, lower, left, and right tips because the strings will be secure in these areas.
You can use scissors or a cutter, but make sure that you exercise appropriate caution while you work. Make the notches deep enough so that strings can hold on to the sticks. An alternative to notches would be holes on the actual sticks, but this is only ideal if you’re using thinner strings.
Step Four: Finishing the Frame
You’re about to finish the first part of the DIY kite-making activity! All you have to do now is to wrap some string on the notches you made, covering the entirety of the length and width of the kite.
You may start with the notch on the top-most tip of the stick, then run the string to the notch on the right tip of the horizontal stick. Afterward, you can continue from there and go to the notch on the bottom tip, the left tip of the horizontal stick, and back to the tip at the very top.
This part of the process will leave you with a stick in the shape of a lowercase T and a string that shows you the shape of your kite. If you’re curious about what this string is for exactly, this will help retain the frame’s shape as the winds batter your kite while airborne.
Step Five: Setting the Sail
If you’re not too familiar with nautical terminology, the sail is the part of a ship that captures the winds to propel ships forward. The flight of kites follows the same mechanism. With the power of the winds hitting the sail and the string that keeps it tethered to you and your kids, the kite will maintain flight.
To create your kite’s sail, you may use either paper or plastic. In this case, plastic will be the choice. The sail’s size will depend on the size of the sticks that you have. So, in principle, the bigger the sticks and frame, the bigger the sail should be. When using the specs indicated in this activity, you will need 40 inches (area) of whatever material you wish to use.
Creating the sail is also where you or your kids can start becoming creative. If you opt for a white plastic bag, you can use many markers to get artistic and write or design your kite. Spread the entirety of the plastic flat on the ground; make sure it’s big and wide so you have enough for the sail material for the kite.
Step Six: Preparing the Sail
Place the frame that you have on top of the plastic and position it at the center. Once you place the frame over the plastic, make sure there’s ample space to cut through from all sides. Use the marker to trace the frame, marking the diamond-kite shape on the plastic by starting with the top tip and tracing a diagonal line to the right tip of the frame. Continue tracing a diagonal line from the right tip to the bottom, then the left, and back to the top tip of the frame, completing the diamond shape you need for the kite’s sail.
Remember how you left ample space on all sides of the frame? That’s going to be vital because as you carve the plastic to isolate the kite’s sail, you’re going to cut through the plastic about two inches wider than the outline.
Mark several points around the marked outline that are about two and a half inches away from the frame’s shape. Use scissors to cut out the diamond, leaving a considerable amount of space around the outline that will wrap the sail around the frame comfortably.
Step Seven: Merging the Frame and the Sail
Now that you have the sail and the frame, it’s time to assemble them into one functioning kite. Start by placing the frame over the sail once more, positioning it in the middle. Apply some glue to the space allowance you set on the plastic and fold it over the sides of the frame before you tape it down.
Ensure that every fold is snug and secure, as you don’t want the frame to be moving in the frame. Securing the sail tightly to the edges of the frame will also help weight distribution and will help avoid the kite from destabilizing mid flight.
Step Eight: Attaching the Line
To connect the user and the kite, you will have to make the flying line. The flying line is a series of strings tied onto important parts of the kite to ensure a stable flight. You will connect the line to the three tips of the frame – the top, the left, and the right tips – and a point on the lower portion of the vertical stick that will keep, which will balance the flying line.
Poke a very small hole through the sail over the area where the sticks meet, just enough to tie a knot on the joint that you can utilize as the flying line. This flying line can be as long as you want. The higher you want the kite to fly, the more string you’ll need.
Tie more strings onto the tips and an area on the lower portion of the vertical sticks and have all lines meet in the middle, adjusting lengths so that the kite hangs balanced on the flying line. Make sure none of the strings are too long or too short, as it will make an imbalance when you hang the kite by the flying line.
Step Nine: Pin the Tail on the Kite
Ideally, a kite tail would be a thick string and about six feet long. Attach a thick, long string to the bottom end of the frame. You may attach the tail by making multiple loops to make sure it stays secure. If you’re wondering what a thick string could be, you may just use a strip of cloth if it’s more accessible.
For those of you looking to make this an artistic experience, you may want to mix and match the color of the sail and the tail to explore how colors fit together.
Step 10: Kite Decoration (Optional)
While optional, kite decoration is still a great activity to add to the kite-making fun. It will allow your kids to develop their imagination and creativity. At the same time, they learn a thing or two about basic engineering and science concepts involved in the art of kite-making.
You can write on the sail with markers or colored paper. If you prefer shapes, you can also practice your kids’ fine motor skills by cutting and carving shapes with paper using scissors and gluing them into the design.
You and your kids may also want to consider tying ribbons onto the tail to create some sort of artful segmented effect. Just make sure that the designs don’t become too heavy as it might affect the kite’s performance in flight.
Flying Your Kite
As you finish creating your kite, it’s time to take the fun outdoors. There are just a few things to consider but generally, you’ll want good weather to do some kite-flying, a spacious area where there aren’t too many obstacles your kite might get entangled with, and a place with decent winds to help your kite with flying.
Places that you can consider can be parks, beaches or any place with bodies of water, places with no trees or power lines would also be an amazing place to fly kites.
To fly your kite, you or your child should hold the kite downwind and release about three to five meters of string. When you’re ready, hoist the kite up and use the string to maneuver the kite and catch the winds.
How Kites Work
In the simplest terms, kites fly when the wind pushes them upward with force called lift. With the help – of course – of other fundamental forces such as gravity and drag, forces needed for flight affect the kite. In order to maintain its airborne position, there has to be a balance between these three forces.