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Friday, July 12, 2013

Kite-flying as an Educational Outdoor Activity

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Playing with even the simplest toys can teach children a lot. Kite-flying is a fun outdoor activity, but it can also help tutor your children about science and nature. This article introduces the art of kite-flying and highlights some related educational topics that you can discuss with your children.

Preparing to fly a kite

You and your child are going to be outside for a while, so make sure that you dress appropriately.  Carrying spare waterproofs might be advisable if rain is forecast. Bring along snacks and a drink to keep your energy levels up. Alternatively, if you plan to make it a day-long activity, why not bring a picnic along?

The basics of kite-flying

Kites come in a variety of shapes and sizes (diamonds, triangles, big, small). You can make your own kite from scratch if you’re feeling creative, or buy one – a safer bet, if your family is new to kite-flying. Different shaped kites fly best in different wind strengths, so try to determine what conditions your particular kite is suited to, before taking it outdoors.

All you will need is a medium wind (5-25mph) and a wide, open space (not adjacent to power lines or open roads). To launch the kite simply stand with your back to the wind and hold it up, slowly letting the kite’s line out as it gains height.

Learning Topic: Why do kites fly?

A good explanation of kite aerodynamics can be found here. The combination of wind passing above and below the kite is what keeps it up in the air. Airplanes use the same forces to remain airborne. If your child is interested in planes or rockets, demonstrating the laws of aerodynamics with a kite is going to fascinate them.

Learning Topic: How birds fly

Of course it is not just airplanes that can take to the skies. If your child is more interested in wildlife than rockets, you can discuss with them how birds are able to fly. Examine the differences between bird flight and kites.

Learning Topic: Wind and weather

What causes the wind?  Why is it that some days there’s barely a breeze and others there’s a howling wind? Successful kite flying is dependent on weather conditions, so there it’s a great opportunity to teach your child about the how the weather works.

A famous weather-related science experiment that you should never try to replicate at home – but that makes for a good story for your kids – is that of American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who supposedly proved the causes of lightning to be a build-up of static electricity in the atmosphere, by flying a kite in a thunderstorm!

Learning Topic: The history of kites

Kites were believed to have originated in China almost 3,000 years ago. At that time they were used for religious or military purposes, not as toys. Throughout history kites have been used for many different things: transporting messages, recording temperatures in the air, even to ward off evil spirits. You can cover a lot of history with your child when talking about what is regarded today as mainly a leisure activity!

Learning through play is a vital tool in furthering child development. Any ‘fun’ activity can become a wonderful opportunity to teach your child about nature and how the world works. So, go grab a kite, go out there, and enjoy yourselves!

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