“Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height,” so the song from the popular Mary Poppins children’s movie goes. But, if you’ve ever tried to actually go fly a kite with a child, you probably found out quickly that it’s not as easy as it seems to send that kite soaring. There are a few things to consider when helping a child learn how to fly a kite.
First, make sure the child has a fairly good grasp on skill development of hand/eye coordination and winding string. You can practice this string-winding skill on a yo-yo. Once they can successfully re-wind a yo-yo, they will probably do well with a kite. This is a skill that is typically not acquired till about 8 years of age, though some acquire it earlier and some later. The hand/eye coordination is essential as kite flying involves both holding the kite with one hand, then letting it go, feeling the tension and then winding the string out and in. If the child has not developed a good sense of hand/eye coordination, this kite flying time will most likely end in tangled string, broken or lost kites stuck in trees or rooftops and a frustrated child and parent.
If you’re fairly confident that your child can wind string and can handle two hands full of kite and kite string, then you’ve got the most difficult step mastered. Now, all you need is a kite, a windy day and a lot of room to learn. Kites are easily found anywhere from $1 on up to as much as you want to spend with some of the more decorated box and motorized kites. It’s not necessary to get an expensive one while your child is learning. In fact, some of the inexpensive or even homemade kites tend to fly better at times. The feature to put your money into is the style of string winder. Sometimes the string can burn the child’s fingers when it pulls out quickly from the winder. So, find a winder that allows child to hold a handle rather than just the string to avoid injury. But, don’t spend a fortune because, if it breaks or flies away, you won’t be as heartbroken if the kite was inexpensive to begin with.
The wind should be coming in at least a good gust every few minutes. You probably don’t want to be out in 30mph+ winds or hurricane-style winds, but make sure there’s at least a constant gust or large breeze, of your kites will probably never get off the ground.
One of the best recipes for success it teaching a child to kite fly is lots of space to run. When you’re looking for an area to fly your kite, look for a large field free of power lines, trees and rooftops if possible. If you can find an empty ball park or soccer field, this is ideal as it allows you and your child to run and let the kite take off without worry of entanglement in wires or tree limbs.
Now, it’s time to fly the kite. Have the child stand holding the kite with the wind hitting your child’s back. Once the child feels a tug in their string, tell them to let go of the kite and tug gently on the string. At the same time they will be releasing string as the kite takes off. It’s a feeling of give and take and tug and pull and knowing when to tug and when to release the string. This skill takes getting the feel for it, and for some children this comes naturally. For others, it may take weeks of practice and frustration.
Expect and prepare your child for the fact that their kite may never actually get off the ground. Also, expect to untangle string many times throughout your experience. If you have more than one child, make sure they stand far apart so their kites don’t entangle each other. You might also want to make sure your child is wearing a good pair of running shoes. And, make sure you pack your camera or camcorder as you’ll want plenty of pictures if your child does get the kite flying.
Regardless of whether the kite soars successfully or never gets off the ground, kite flying is a great bonding experience between a parent and a child if done with patience. It’s also great exercise for the child who will most likely be running a bit and using both arms.