Old-Fashioned Fun With Things That Fly

Inexpensive Toys Are Tons of Fun

Rubber band airplanes are a retro toy that grandparents will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren.
Photo by Susan Adcox

Toys that fly seldom fail to fascinate, even when they are simple paper airplanes or homemade kites. Have some old-fashioned fun with the grandkids by introducing them to these things that fly. They will get a science lesson, too.

This is one in a series of old-fashioned pastimes for kids.

  • 01 of 05

    Rubber Band-Powered Airplanes

    Grandfather and grandson fly a rubber band powered airplane.
    Kidstock / Getty Images

    Remember the fun you used to have with rubber band-powered airplanes? You still can. Find the kits at craft stores for a few bucks. They assemble in seconds. They may not last long, but the look on your grandkids’ faces the first time they see one in flight is worth a million bucks. If you want to get more creative, you can make your own airplanes from materials such as foam plates and drinking straws. Enable powered flight with a rubber band and a purchased propeller, or use a prop left over...MORE from one of your casualties.

  • 02 of 05

    Paper Airplanes

    Fun With Paper Airplanes
    Kidstock / Blend / Getty Images

    Paper airplanes are great for experimenting with aerodynamics. You can recreate your favorite paper airplane from your youth or just wing it. Teaching your grandchildren to make paper airplanes may not be as much fun as throwing them at that substitute teacher you had in fourth grade, but it might come close. If you want to get more sophisticated, visit these helpful sites:

    • Fun Paper Airplanes offers templates in four categories: beginners, intermediate, advanced and novelty.
    • Fold N Fly allows...MORE you to select a design according to several different criteria, as well as a difficulty level and also whether scissors are required.
    • Amazing Paper Airplanes matches paper models to real airplanes, complete with video clips of the real planes in flight.
    • Create Your Own Paper Airplane, by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, contains a wealth of resources, including explanations of aerodynamics.
  • 03 of 05

    Homemade Kites

    Help the grandkids make homemade kites.
    Meredith Winn Photography / Getty Images

    When I was a kid, we used to make our own kites with sticks and tissue paper. They never flew very well, because the sticks were always too heavy. There are lots of directions for kite-making on the Internet. Try these one-page paper kites. They use ordinary colored typing paper and bamboo shish-kebab sticks. Guess what? You may already have everything you need to make them. If you want to get more into kite-making, check out your local bookstore or library for more detailed instructions. Kite...MORE festivals are another place to have low-tech fun.

  • 04 of 05

    Paper Helicopters

    paper helicopter
    Photo by Susan Adcox

    Paper helicopters are even easier to make than paper airplanes. Here's one set of directions, but there are lots of others available. You can also see the template in the illustration. Cut on the solid lines, and fold on the dotted ones. With a little practice, the grandchildren will be able to cut these freehand without a pattern. Use a paper clip to give the base a little extra weight. Paper helicopters are dropped instead of thrown, so if you have a balcony or stair landing to drop them...MORE from, they are even more fun. Help the grandchildren color them in psychedelic tones to enhance the effect.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    toy parachute
    Photo by Susan Adcox

    When we were kids, boys made these with plastic soldiers, but today's kids are more likely to use a Lego minifig or other play figure. We used men's hankies for the parachutes, but you can also use a square piece of plastic. Actually, a small trash bag, the 4-gallon size, is perfect.  Don't open it up. Tie a knot in each corner. Cut 4 pieces of string, each about the length of one side of the parachute. Tie each to a corner of the parachute. The knot will hold the string in place....MORE Attach the figure to the parachute by tying, looping or taping the string. Fold the parachute up and throw the whole thing straight up. The parachute should open, and the figure should float down. If dropping it from an elevation, hold it by the top of the parachute and simply let go. Experiment with different materials and techniques. That's part of the fun.