Inside: straw rockets for kids is a simple play idea that involves science and math. Easy to set up and clean up. Perfect for rainy days or when you are too tired to get off the coach.
Do you have a headache? A cold virus? Or maybe you are sitting on a coach with a new baby in your lap half alive from sleep deprivation, while your first-born is pulling on your skirt, “Mom! Mom! Play with me!”?
I know what will help. A silly game you can play with your older child without getting off the coach. If you have a map you can put on a floor, then you can weave in an exciting geography lesson without your son (or your daughter) even realizing that he/she is mastering advanced geographic knowledge. As an extra bonus, this game is likely to keep your older kid playing solo long after the baby wakes up or a nap claims you (whatever comes first).
Straw rockets are easy to make and launch, fun to play, and keep kids occupied for a long time.
All you need are a few things from around the house.
What you need
- Drinking straws
- Paper (plain printing paper decorated by kids is the best, but the patterned paper will make your rockets look fancy )
- Tape (or glue)
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What to do
- Wrap a piece of paper (about 5×1) around a straw and tape it shut. Make sure the paper is not wrapped too tight around the straw. It would have to fly off with just a puff of air in a minute.
- Pull half an inch of this newly made cylinder off the straw and twist it into a sealed tip. Or put a piece of tape of one side, flip it over and squeeze it shut on the other side. The idea is to seal it enough so that air can’t go through in that direction.
- You can stop right here and blow into a straw to make your rocket fly to the ceiling.
OR (better yet ) shoot the rocket across the room. Make the kids run back and forth and bring the fired rockets back to you (you need to rest today, and they need the exercise).
Have more energy to spare?
Don’t stop yet! You can go all out and add fins for rocket stability.
Now that I’ve done it a couple of times, it takes me a minute to add fins. I cut a shape (preferably the kind that makes rocket sense but it depends on the kind of day we have), double it (set the shape on a piece of paper and cut around it), and glue the fins to the “rocket.”
We have tried 2, 3 and 4 fins. Our favorite number is 3. Make it an experiment. Test each option and decide which one works best for you.
- Cut out a couple of fins. The shape? Try rectangle, parallelogram and a triangle.
- Distribute fins about the same distance from each other, adjusting them to be at right angles. My kids like to use a lot of tape and then I cut off all the bits that stick out with the scissors.
- Blow into a straw. Now how far did your rocket go?
Older kids can grab a tape (I like soft models to keep little fingers safe) and measure each distance traveled.
Challenge older kids to keep working independently. They can modify the design to see how it will affect the performance. It might keep them occupied for hours. Some ideas to try: increase weight to the nose, increase the fin size, move the fins to different positions, make rockets from different (lighter or heavier) paper, change the shape of fins, and change the way fins are attached to the rockets.
Where is Montana?
If you have a map, put it on the floor and challenge kids to shoot the rocket up into space in such a way that it lands on your map. They will have to vary where they are standing and the angle at which they shoot the rocket. As they get better in aiming, challenge them to land on a particular spot. “Can you land in Florida?“
When they manage to land somewhere on the map, it’s time to explore where they landed.
This rocket is touching Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Older kids can read the names of places out loud. Younger kids can bring the map to you or if you can see where the rocket landed from where you are sitting even better. Just shout out, “It’s Montana!”
Depending on what kind of map you are using (world map, country map, state map), you can explore the names of the countries, the state(s) that the rocket is touching, rivers, mountains, towns, etc.
The science behind straw rockets
How sending a rocket ship into space is like throwing a ball into the air? Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13 provides a great age-appropriate explanation. Kids will also learn what math has to do with it.
Of course, while real rockets are propelled forward by the power of propellants, we use air to make our rockets go. A puff of air from our mouth goes through a narrow straw producing an action force. Even though it might seem that a game of straw rockets is child’s play, it’s a great study of Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The action is the air going in, and the opposite reaction is the air going out. Our rocket launches because of the equal and opposite reaction force.
Looking for more inspiration? We made this airplane from a soda bottle! Want to know how? Click here or the photo.
More Rocket Straw ideas to try another day
These plastic pipettes rockets from Buddy and Buggy are fun to decorate and fun to fly.
If you don’t mind using a glue gun and have some foam sheets on hand, these rockets from The Frugal Fun for Boys & Girls go really far.
This mini kit comes with everything you need to make pretty rockets. Don’t expect them to launch though. Too heavy. But you will have fun making them together with your preschooler on the day you don’t feel like getting off the coach.