Have you ever made a paper airplane?
Did you learn how to make it from a book? Or maybe it was from the kid you shared a desk with in the third grade?
I fall into the second camp, learning from my friends in school. And for all of the hundreds of airplanes we made, not one of them truly soared the way I expected it to.
How to make a paper airplane
Well guess what? Today I’m sharing links to instructions for making paper airplanes that actually work, along with some ideas on how to help kids invent their own paper airplane designs.
So let’s get started with How to Make Paper Airplanes while building Design Skills…
- A few sets of instructions for making paper airplanes. You can get these from a book or download instructions from the internet. Our favorite was The Eagle, and we also tried High Glider and Fancy Flier. I found these by doing an image search for “Make Paper Airplane.”
- Copy paper. Thinner paper is easier for children to fold.
- Markers (optional)
- Scissors (optional)
- A clear table
Step One: Select a Design
We looked through all of our designs, picked one to start with, and my daughter and I sat down and followed the directions for the first airplane. If you’ve ever made origami, it’s the same approach. Most of the steps were easy enough for her four-year old hands and mind, but I had to help her with a few of the trickier folds.
If you find instructions that are too complicated for you, then skip them and find another plane to make.
Step Two: Teach someone else how to make a plane
Once we got the hang of it, N thought our six-year old neighbor would enjoy this project and we invited him over to join us. Either that or misery loves company.
We each started with another sheet of paper and while we folded, the kids educated each other on hamburger and hot dog folds. If you don’t have a neighbor to teach, teach a parent, babysitter, or grandparent. This step does wonders for building confidence.
Step Three: Iterate and Invent New Planes
Once that first airplane was complete, it was interesting to see where the kids took the project next. My daughter, a designer to the core, got busy decorating her plane with markers. Her friend, a tinkerer at heart who has a soft spot for Legos, began iterating on the design to improve it!
As we folded, he asked me questions like, “On your Eagle, how did you make the wing tips?” And then he proceeded to invent his own series of planes with pointed noses, flat noses, and wing tips.
When my daughter jumped in to help him, I commented that they were iterating. I actually said, “Hey you guys are iterating! Do you know that word? It means that you’re building a lot of planes to test new ideas and in order to figure out how to make it better. Can you say ‘iterate?'” And then of course, they obliged me.
I swear, the teacher thing will probably never leave my soul! Do you ever find yourself in that mode?
Step Four: Take it outdoors
They tested their planes in the house and once they amassed a small fleet of planes, I heard, “Let’s have an airplane show!!” So we took it outdoors to see what the planes could do.
Our friend guessed that the pointy-nosed planes would get more distance and said he was “amazed that the flat-nosed Eagle flew the best.”
All in all, we spent a good hour on this project, and in the end not only did these kids have fun bonding and playing together, but they came away with some new design skills, tools for developing an innovator’s mindset, and good ol’ fine motor skill practice.
A question for you…
Did you ever make paper airplanes as a child? Where did you learn how to make them? And how did they fly?