Kite-flying is one of those timeless activities that can be easy to forget about until you end up watching the original 1964 version of Mary Poppins (thanks, Disney+) and get the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” song stuck in your head. Sure, you could order one online and have it delivered, but what’s the fun in that? If you really want to get your kids invested in flying kites (and by “invested” we mean spending hours on the project, buying you some glorious time that does not involve an iPad in their sticky little hands), you may want to consider the DIY route.
Basically, it’s two activities in one. First, you have to learn how to make a kite and then construct one (or more) yourself. Then, you can actually go outside and fly the kite. (Just make sure you try it on a day with at least some wind, so the kiddos don’t get frustrated and quit right away). But what if you’re not sure how to make a kite? Don’t worry, we’ve got that part handled. Here are some methods, tips, and suggestions that will have you flying a kite before you can say “Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins is an emotionally unavailable egotistical monster who treats his wife and children like property.” And off we go!
How to Make a Kite
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
DIY kites are very customizable (translation: you can probably make one with stuff you already have in your house). But in general, there are four types of supplies you need to make a basic kite:
- Material for the main part of the kite. This could be tissue paper, newspaper, garbage bags, tissue paper covered in contact paper. Get creative!
- Something hard, light, and relatively straight to serve as the bones of the kite. These could be paper straws, sticks, or whatever else you have that could fit into this category. (Remember, being lightweight is key here because you’re going to try to get this kite airborne.)
- Glue or something sticky. If you opt to go the contact paper route, you can skip this part because that’s sticky enough. But if you’re working with plain tissue paper, newspaper, or garbage bags, you’re going to need something like glue or tape to get the body of the kite to stick to the frame.
- String or ribbon. This serves two purposes: to hold the straws or sticks together, as well as give you something to hold onto at the bottom of the kite to allow you to fly it.
If you’re interested in making a fancier kite (or want to keep the kids occupied for longer with the craft component of this project), we’ll talk more about decorating your creation in a moment.
Step 2: Assemble the Frame
Before anything else, make your frame. If you’re going with the traditional diamond-shaped kite (which is probably a good idea for beginners), make a cross where the length is longer than the width. This could mean using one stick that’s longer than the other, or two straws of the width and three for the length. Then, attach them to each other. You could use string, glue, or even strong tape (like duct, masking, or shipping tape).
Step 3: Make a String Border
Now, take the frame you made, and run a piece of string around the entire border of the kite. This will make it easier to cut and measure the paper or plastic that’s going on top of it.
Step 4: Cut and Attach the Material
Take your material of choice, and cut it to roughly the shape of the kite (using the string kite as your guide). Once that’s done, fold the edges of the material over the string border of the kite (there shouldn’t be a lot of material left on that side) and either glue or tape down. (Tape is faster and easier, but using glue makes the whole project longer, if that’s something that’s important to you.)
Step 5: Attach the String
Next, take a very long string and tie it around the very center of the kite (where the two sticks/straws come together). Make sure it’s tight. Give yourself plenty of string (more than you think you need) so allow your kite to reach great heights.
Step 6: Decorate (If You Want To!)
After Step 5, the kite should be functional, so if that’s all you’re after, you can head right outside (assuming there is some type of wind). But if you want your kite to have some flair, you can add ribbons to the bottom of the kite to make a pretty tail, or have the kids color, paint, or put stickers on the kite to make it their own. Really, this part can take as long or as short as you need it to. You can even make it a competition among the kids: Who made the kite that works the best/flies the highest, and which kite has the best decorations.
There are many tutorials on how to make kites using plastic bags, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s common knowledge that plastic bags are bad for the environment and often pollute the habitats of many animals and birds. Using paper products or other easily biodegradable materials is a much smarter move.
There are plenty of variations and tutorials out there if you want to get more advanced, but this one is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require an advanced degree in engineering to construct. Now, go be like Mr. Banks at the end of Mary Poppins, after Julie Andrews made him (at least temporarily) less emotionally abusive and he takes his family to a nearby park to fly a kite.
How to Fly a Kite
Once you’ve assembled your undoubtedly incredible kite, it’s time to get that puppy soaring! The following kite-flying tips will turn you into a titan of kiting in no time.
- Find an open space: This one may seem obvious, but it’s super-important. When sizing up a potential area, try to find a space clear of obstacles that could cause your kite to crash (or that it could crash into, like the ocean).
- Observe the wind: Wind will “power” your kite, making it a pretty crucial part of the kite-flying experience. You don’t want too much wind, though — most kites shouldn’t be flown in wind speeds greater than 20mph.
- Mind your bridle: Some kites have an adjustable bridle that should be moved depending on wind speed. In higher winds, move it toward the top. In lower winds, move it toward the bottom. Just don’t move it more than 1/2-inch at a time.
Fun Facts About Kites
While you’re on your kite kick, why not learn some fun info about them? The following interesting facts will fascinate you.
- The largest kit measures an astonishing 10,400-square-feet and weighs in at a whoppin’ 500 pounds. Created by Gomberg Kite Productions, it’s called “Mega Flag.”
- The record for the longest kite fly is 180 hours, or just over seven days!
- The highest a kite has flown is 12,471 feet.
- In 1760, flying kites was banned in Japan because so many people were skipping work to do it.
- Historically, kites have been used in wars for everything from signaling to dropping letters.