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Category: Character
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Category: Leisure

Teach Your Child to Make Paper Airplanes

A rainy afternoon with nothing to do is the best time to learn to do something new. Why not try making a paper airplane with your child? It is amazingly simple to turn a plain piece of paper into a toy that flies!

Paper airplanes can be simple or fancy, ranging from the basic “Arrow” design, which is probably the airplane you remember from your school days- to a complex and carefully crafted flying machine modeled after a real one. As with any new craft, it makes sense to start with an easy project until you get the hang of it.

Paper airplane making is relatively new, as airplanes have only been around for about 100 years. If your child is interested in flight, this project will help them learn the basics of aerodynamics as they design and alter their planes.

So if you’ve got basic 8½ by 11 inch copier paper and an imagination, why not give this fun activity a try? This project will teach measuring, how to patiently follow step-by-step directions, and the value of trial and error as a scientific method. It will also develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Besides that, it’s fun!


Preschoolers will laugh with delight when you try out your first plane. If it flies, they will want to do one of their own. If they are able to watch while you model folding and follow your directions, they are ready.

It is best to practice making a simple airplane, such as the basic Arrow. You can then progress to something different. Your library will probably have a how-to book on paper airplanes. The Internet also has a wealth of designs and information, including how-to videos.

You will need:

  • A pattern to follow
  • Light paper- 16-20 pound copier paper is good
  • A flat surface to work on

These directions for the Arrow are adapted from a great Website called 10PaperAiplanes.com.

  1. Fold paper in half, lengthwise.
  2. Unfold keeping paper lengthwise.
  3. Fold top right hand corner over to meet the center line formed by the first fold.
  4. Repeat, folding the top left hand corner to meet the center line.
  5. Starting at the tip of the point, make another fold, folding each side over so that the edges meet the center line.
  6. Turn the plane over and fold it in half, creating the arrow form.
  7. Now, fold the first wing over with the line of the fold running nearly parallel to the centerline of the plane about ½ to 1 inch from the center.
  8. Repeat with other wing.
  9. You’re ready to fly!

Your airplane may require some adjustment. If it dives, turn the edges of the rear wings up slightly. If it swoops up, then crashes, do the opposite. Trial and error will help you get some distance.
Other simple designs are available and easy to do. Experiment by shortening the length of the paper, varying folds and using paper clips as weights. You can also customize your planes with crayon or markers before or after folding. Little one’s results may not be perfect, but that’s okay. They will still love the finished product and want to fly it around the house. Save them in a safe place for the next sunny day!

Main points to address:

  • Your child is ready if he or she can watch, then follow directions with your help.
  • Start with a simple design, like the Arrow.
  • Your plane may need some adjustments.
  • Vary the design by changing paper size and types of folds.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age kids are ready for fancier designs. Having something to look at while creating a new plane is helpful. Try to be sensitive to your child’s learning style. Some children can follow spoken directions better than watching a demonstration. Others need to read the directions and carefully digest each step.

Most kids will need to make several tries before getting their plane to fly the way they want. Let them know that’s what the Wright Brothers did! It took them several years of not giving up until their plane flew.

The Internet has many sites that offer free designs, some with very detailed instructions and some with animated or videoed directions. Some of the fancier designs are the Stealth, the Moth, the Zump, the Slider and the Spinster, to name but a few. There are even delicate origami-type designs. Each time your child makes a different model, they are learning something additional about aeronautics.

If your child is really excited about this craft, you may want to use paper airplane making as a theme for a party. The supplies are cheap, the kids will stay engaged, and they will have a neat favor to take home when the party’s over! Make several models and decorate so they can see what is possible. Have an extra pair of adult hands to assist.

Main points to address:

  • School-age children can handle more complex designs.
  • Try to consider your child’s learning style while they are attempting to follow directions.
  • Try making paper airplanes a theme for a birthday party.

Grades 3-6th

Older school children will be able to attempt quite complex planes. Refer to some of the sites referenced below to see some examples. You may need a ruler, scissors and white glue to make a more sophisticated plane. Supplies are still cheap and easily had. Kits are also available when your child is able to follow more detailed directions and manipulate multiple parts. Airplanes available from kit manufacturers make a nice display or collection.

Of course, airplanes are meant to be flown and kids love to compete against each other for both distance and time aloft. Wind conditions are a factor in paper airplane flight, just as with actual airplane flight. Pick a slightly breezy to still day and make sure you are flying with the wind, not against it. Ken Blackburn, an aeronautical engineer from Florida in the USA, holds the Guinness World Record for time aloft at 27.6 seconds!

There are many historical books on early airplane design that might make good gifts for a child this age. Biographies of early flyers, like Lincoln Beachey and others who flew balloons, dirigibles, biplanes and monoplanes may inspire your child.

If your older child is interested, there are several online clubs for kids and adults where ideas are shared and successes celebrated. Some localities may have hobby clubs of the same sort. Many young people interested in paper airplanes as children have gone on to do research or engineering work with flight. For these kids, what started out as a passion for flying things turned into a meaningful, and highly rewarding occupation.

Main points to address:

  • Older children can handle more complex designs. Kits are also available.
  • Your child and his or her friends may want to compete for flight distance and time aloft.
  • Support your child’s passionate interest in flight with books, by providing materials to build with or by finding a club to participate in.


Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Leisure.

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