Aug 2 / Bhavani
A paper parachute is fun toy that is easy to make. Create your parachute sail with a napkin, piece of tissue paper, or a coffee filter. Instead of of a paper product, use a recycled plastic bag or a fresh garbage bag. Attach strings and a basket to your sails. Launch your parachute from up high and watch it float safely to the ground.

  • Paper napkin (Tissues paper)
  • Markers (Optional)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Small toy for weight


  1. Unfold your napkin and decorate your parachute with felt tip markers
  2. Cut 4 even pieces of string
  3. Attach 1 string to each corner using tape
  4. Tie the strings together and attach a weighted object
  5. Drop your paper parachute from a height
  6. Observe the speed of your parachute
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How does a parachute work?

Things fall because gravity pulls them down, and the faster they fall, the harder they land. A lot of people think that heavier objects fall faster. Galileo—a 16th century philosopher and scientist—showed that this idea, though intuitive, is wrong.

You can test this idea too. Use a small square of cardboard (e.g. 2 by 2 inches) and a larger square of paper (e.g. 4 by 4 inches) folded to the same size (e.g. fold it in four). Drop both simultaneously from the same height and observe that though they are different weights, they reach the ground at the same time. Repeating this with the paper unfolded, and then again with the paper folded in eight or sixteen.
The air around us is made of small particles. Just like you move water particles out of the way when you move through water, you move air particles out of the way when you move through air.

Maybe you have felt how you pushed air out of the way on a bike ride. As you push the air, the air pushes you. It slides by you and feels like wind. It is called air resistance or drag, and it slows you down. You might not like air resistance when you are on your bike, but it is ideal when it comes to slowing down a fall!

The heavier cardboard fell slower than the lighter paper folded multiple times because its larger flat surface needed to push more air away. It experienced more drag. The canopy of a parachute—when unfolded—has large surfaces. It creates a lot of drag slowing the fall down.

More to do:

  1. Use a timer to measure how long each fall takes. Can you calculate the average speed of your figure during the fall? Which parachute creates the slowest fall?
  2. Make canopies of different materials, different sizes, and different shapes. Which ones work best?
  3. Find out how many holes you can create before your parachute no longer functions, or whether or not the location of the hole makes a difference. You could also gradually increase the size of the hole and study how its performance changes.
  4. Measure the impact of the fall by letting your figure land in a sandbox. How deep is the indent created by the fall?
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