Inside: Stilt-walking is a great way to burn energy and have fun outside this summer. All you need are two cans of tomatoes and a rope. You can go all out and decorate the cans as we did.
Do your kids say things like, “I wish I were taller.” With this project, they can! All you have to do is make a big pot of tomato soup with canned tomatoes, and use the empty cans to make stilts.
This activity also helps to burn that extra energy that all kids seem to have in abundance. My kids have been using these stilts for hours every day ever since we made them. They moved slowly and tentatively the first day, but now they make up stilt challenges and races across the whole yard.
I participated in my kids’ races a few times and discovered that stilt-walking is surprisingly fun for adults as well!
What you need
2 cans of the same size
Gorilla tape OR a nail and a hammer to make holes for the rope
Decorative items (optional)
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What to do
- Prepare the cans. Find a yummy tomato soup recipe. I hope it calls for two cans of tomatoes! Use a rotating can opener to remove the tops. Make sure there are no sharp edges anywhere.
- Decorate the cans. Decorate the cans any way you like. The approaching 4th of July was our inspiration. We started by gluing white printing paper around cans.
And then we painted cans with red, white, and blue tempera paints. You can also cover the cans with washi tape.
- Attach ropes. Each can needs a rope for kids to hold on to. You can either tape it with an industrial strength tape like gorilla tape. Or for an even more secure hold, use a nail and a hammer to make two holes near the edge to thread the rope through.
My nail wasn’t fat enough for the butcher’s twine I was using for the project, so I made an indentation with a nail, then placed a screwdriver in it and hit it with a hummer. It was a fast and easy way to get a hole without injuring myself.
How long should the rope be? You can experiment with what length works best for you. We tried many different positions. For us, the most comfortable length turned out to be when the rope was no higher than the top of the waistband.
- Go! Stand on top of cans with ropes in your hands and walk across the yard. Or at least try to… The trick is to pull on the string of one leg while balancing on the other. Shift your weight slowly from one side to another as you find your balance.
Keep kids safe by supporting them under their arms until they get the hang of it. Or walk beside them and be ready to catch them as they begin to fall. It might take a few minutes to figure out how to coordinate feet and hand movements. And when they do, it’s so much fun!
Note: You will have more stability and control if you wear shoes.
The Science of Stilts: Gravity, Balance, and Motion
Historians tell us that stilt-walking goes back as far as 722-481 B.C. Archeologists found evidence of stilt-walking in Ancient Greece, China, and Central Africa. While there are many different legends as to the origin of stilt walking, my kids’ favorite one is about a Chinese ambassador who was often laughed at for being short. One day he tied two stilts to his shoes and went to the neighboring kingdom. He was never laughed at again.
While stilt-walking is often associated with festivals and summer fairs, they have many important purposes. Stilts are used for painting high ceilings, for walking in flooded areas, and for harvesting fruit trees.
Some people turn stilt-walking into a competitive sport. While there are many impressive records in stilt-walking, our favorite one is from 1891, when a Frenchman stilt-walked from Paris to Moscow.
Stilt-walking is a great excuse to dive into the fascinating topics of gravity, balance, and motion. Here are some suggestions:
Balance Rules! from Telus World of Science
Circus Science: How to Balance Anything from Scientific American
And the basic explanation about Center of Gravity from Explain That Stuff
More Outdoor Fun