Let’s learn how to make a paper helicopter! They are a wonderful and easy engineering project for kids!
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How to Make Paper Helicopter
NOTE: If you don’t have access to a printer follow the visual guide below.
- Construction paper or card stock
- Paper clips
Guide: At first I was a little concerned that most of the templates I found for paper helicopters did not include measurements. Then we started experimenting with making them different sizes and the fun really began. We actually found that the bigger they were the better they flew. A 2″ by 8″ piece of paper was just right. Here are the proportions we used, you can increase or decrease them as desired. Cut along all solid lines. Fold along dotted lines as shown in the next steps. You may want to lightly score the dotted lines to make folding easier.
- Step One Cut your paper and draw guide.
- Step Two Fold section D along long dotted line
- Step Three Fold Section C along long dotted line
- Step Four Fold Section A along dotted line towards you
- Step Five Fold Section B along dotted line away from you
- Step Six Fold bottom edge of section C/D towards you
- Step Seven Tape folded end of C/D I couldn’t resist adding a little flair with some decorative tape.
- Step Eight Add a paper clip to the taped end
You’re done! Take them outside and throw them like you would throw a ball or paper airplane. They should spin like a helicopter to the ground! If you have a two story space you can also drop them down and watch them spin. My kids enjoyed playing with them but once I got my camera out my son got into all the “action” shots I was taking. You really don’t need to throw them that hard!
Let’s Talk STEAM
The Science: Actual helicopters fly by generating lift. Lift is an upward pushing force that occurs when the blades of a helicopter rotate and a difference in air pressure is created on either side of the blades. Under the blades the air pressure is high and above the blades the air pressure is lower. This allows the helicopters to ascend into the air.
Our paper helicopters don’t generate lift or ascend, but the force of air upward on the blades as they fall is what causes our paper helicopters to spin. As a paper helicopter falls, air presses on each of the blades with an equal force but in the opposite direction and the helicopter spins around.
The Engineering: Once you know how to make a paper helicopter expand the project by introducing engineering challenges. Kids can modify the basic paper helicopter and explore how each modification changes its behavior. Here are some challenges to present:
- Try switching the direction of the folds for blades A & B. Make note of the direction the helicopter spins this time.
- Weight affects how quickly the helicopter spins, try adding additional paper clips and watch how the helicopter spins faster!
- Make the helicopters in different sizes. Does any size work better or worse than the others?
Learning how to make a paper helicopter is not only a simple and fun activity, it has a lot to teach kids about science and engineering. I also have lots more DIY Toys with things to teach kids here:
More DIY Toys to try:
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