Open it up, spread it out and the kids will come running! A parachute or play canopy is big, colorful and inviting. In preschool classes and teacher trainings, I’ve been sharing games and activities that promote gross motor skills, physical activity, lots of smiles and tons of fun. Here are some parachute activity ideas you may want to try with your own children or the children in your classroom:
Brave the Waves and Pop the Bubbles
While sitting down around the outside edge of the parachute, have children grasp the parachute and shake the parachute up and down. Select two or three children to crawl (on hands and knees) on top of the parachute and pop the “bubbles” that are created when everyone moves their hands up and down making “waves.”
Hi and Hello
While standing and holding the parachute, ask children to follow your directions with the correct movements: “Touch your toes, ready... lift!” Children lift the parachute up and over their heads. While the parachute is inflated encourage children to greet one another by waving with one hand while saying “Hi or Hello” as the parachute deflates. Repeat the activity, but this time wave with the other hand and to friends on another side of the parachute.
While standing and holding the parachute, ask children to “Touch your toes, ready... lift!” When the parachute has reached its apex, instruct children (while still holding parachute) to quickly walk toward the center of the inflated chute and look up at the mushroom cap above them. As the parachute deflates, direct children to walk backwards to their original positions while still holding onto the parachute.
Dome Camping Tent
While standing and holding the parachute, ask children to “Touch your toes, ready... lift!” Direct children to walk forward one step while pulling the parachute behind them and sitting down on the edge of the parachute. By sitting down inside the parachute they seal as much air as possible while creating a dome tent.
Children stand around the parachute, holding it with an overhand grip. Throw 6 -10 foam balls into the middle of the parachute. Tell the children that it is time to make popcorn. The balls are the kernels of popcorn, and if they shake the parachute hard enough, the corn will start to pop. Designate one child to be the “Popcorn Police” whose job it is to retrieve the kernels (balls) that have flown off the parachute and throw them back onto the parachute. Children keep popping the corn until they are “too pooped to pop.”
Children stand around the parachute, holding it with an overhand grip. Ask two children across from each other to let go of the parachute. These two children will exchange places, walking beneath the inflated parachute, while the group lifts the parachute on the teachers' command. As they pass each other under the parachute, they can slap palms with a “High 5” as they go to their new place on the other side of the parachute. Continue playing until everyone has had a turn to exchange places.
Young children in your classroom or home love to repeat these activities. Remember that they learn best through repetition and experience--and so do you! The more and more you play with the parachute
the more confident you will become in using this outstanding piece of equipment as part of your daily physical education or movement activities.