Parachute Power

By Silvana Clark

Take a large billowy mass of nylon, a group of children and what do you have? Instant fun and excitement with a parachute! Using a parachute draws children of all ages together in a cooperative spirit, and everyone gets to participate in a non-threatening way. In fact, the entire group takes part in lifting, tossing and crawling under the parachute and, best of all, the parachute stores quickly in a compact space.

This is probably not news to you. We all know kids like playing with a parachute, but just how long can you lift and raise the parachute before kids get bored? The sky’s the limit. Here are some easy games and activities you can use to maximize your time and your campers’ fun:

Basic Inflation
Have the group stand around the outside of the parachute, holding on to the edges. Bend down so the parachute is flat on the ground. On the count of three, everyone raises their arms, which causes the parachute to float over everyone’s head to its maximum height.

The Mushroom
Using the basic inflation technique, raise the parachute. When it reaches full height, the entire group takes five steps into the center, still holding on to the edges. The parachute will create a giant mushroom shape that then floats down, engulfing the entire group.

Popcorn
This game sounds easy, but it soon has everyone huffing and puffing for breath. Have the group stand and hold the parachute taut at waist level. Toss 15 to 20 lightweight balls in the center and have the group shake the parachute until all the balls have popped out. One group did this with 25 Beanie Babies. The kids love shaking the parachute to get the stuffed animals to fly in the air.

Funny Faces
Lift the parachute overhead. When it is fully raised, the kids drop to their stomachs, holding the edges of the parachute around the back of their necks. Only heads are inside the parachute, creating a humorous sight, as everyone makes silly faces until the parachute drops to the center.

Igloo
Raise the parachute to its full height. Holding onto the edges, the kids take one step forward while also bringing the parachute behind their bodies as they sit down. This causes the entire group to be inside the parachute … creating an igloo of friends.

Catch Them!
Inflate the parachute. The leader calls out a specific category, such as “anyone wearing a red shirt” or “anyone with sandals.” Whoever falls into that category releases the parachute and runs under it to the other side. Practice a few times so kids get the idea about running to the opposite side of the parachute. Then add a twist. Call a category such as “anyone who had scrambled eggs for breakfast.” Those people run under the parachute and you yell, “Catch them!” The group quickly brings the parachute edges to the ground, “trapping” people underneath.

Tug-of-War
The group rolls the parachute into a long, fat “rope.” Tie a brightly colored scarf at the center. Place one team on each side of the scarf. On a designated signal … pull!

Wind Baths
Young children especially enjoy this activity. The entire group stands around the parachute, holding the edges. One person at a time sits in the center, on top of the parachute. The rest of the group provides a wind bath by rapidly shaking the parachute, causing rippling air to flow on the person in the middle. Great fun on a hot day!

Clouds
Quickly raise the parachute to its highest level then bring the edges down to the ground. This creates a large cloud. Call out a specific category, such as “anyone who forgot to brush his or her teeth today.” Those people “gently” walk on top of the “cloud” until it is totally flat. Keep repeating so everyone has several chances to go cloud walking.

Parachutes come in many colors and sizes. Younger children enjoy parachutes with handles around the edges so they get a better grip. To find a play parachute, simply Google “play parachutes” and let your fingers do the walking. (I remember the days when my husband and I would scour Army/Navy stores to buy actual parachutes used for sky diving. The clerks never understood why we would want to use a parachute to play games!)

Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. She presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. Silvana can be reached at (615) 662-7432 or via e-mail at silvanac@msn.com.