Up, Up and Away: Fun and Engaging Ways to Teach the History of Flight for Kids

Early records of taking flight, whether it be humans or objects, date back to 400 BC in China with the discovery of a kite. After this invention came about, Chinese citizens believed that humans could possibly start flying, and more kites were used in religious ceremonies. Through the years, numerous efforts were made by many people and different objects were created, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Ornithopter in 1485 and the first hot air balloon in 1783 by Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier. While these creations are just as important, they aren’t as well known as the contributions of Orville and Wilbur Wright and the invention of the first successful airplane. The possibility of flying like a bird can make children’s eyes grow wide. December 17th is known as Wright Brothers Day. This day is the commemoration of the historic flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Learning about the history of flight can be fun and exciting, especially explaining the concept to kids. Here are a few ways to celebrate aviation and flight any day of the year, but more importantly on December 17th

  1. Virtually visit the Wright Brothers Museum in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina – Learn about the people, places and events that led to the Wright Brothers by visiting their museum through the National Park Service. A simple internet search for the museum and National Park Service will take you to the place. You can also visit nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm. You can explore the website, chat with a park ranger and more. If you are able, it would be fun for your family to take an in-person trip to Kitty Hawk and see the sites for yourself. 
  2. Research Aviation Pioneers – The Wright Brothers aren’t the only ones who broke barriers in the world of aviation. Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Bessie Coleman and more set the way for people to follow. Let your child choose a name of a famous pilot and have them research their biography. From there, get creative and make posters, a play about the person or a short story. The more hands-on the research is, the more your child will learn. You can also take your research a step further and look at first people in space. 
  3. Make a Popsicle and Paper Airplane – Many of us grew up making paper airplanes. This favorite craft is perfect for kids to make and you can add popsicle sticks to help with the support. For this craft, you’ll need: 
  • 3 popsicle sticks (6 x ¾ in)
  • 5 popsicle sticks (4 ½ x ⅜ in) 
  • 2 small cardboard cutouts (4.5 cm x 0.8 cm) 
  • 1 small black bead
  • Scissors 
  • Markers 
  • Glue 


  1. Glue the 5 small popsicle sticks together (one on top of the other) and let dry. 
  2. Cut the edges of the cardboard cutouts into narrow oval shapes. Feel free to decorate the cutouts with markers or cardboard paper. These ovals will become the airplane’s propellers. Glue the cardboard ovals together at the center to form an X. Once dry, glue the black bead on top of the X. 
  3. Using the now-dried 5 glued sticks, turn them on their side. Using the wider sides, glue 2 large sticks on each side going across the 5 sticks. These sticks will become your wings. 
  4. Glue the propeller to the top of the 5 sticks. 
  5. Let your airplane dry completely. Once done, decorate as needed.

     4.  Read Books About Airplanes and Aviation – Many biographies are available about famous aviators and about planes, in general. There are even reads for all ages. Titles include The Big Book of Airplanes, The Glorious Flight and Where Do Jet Planes Sleep at Night?” 

     5. Dress Up in a Flight-Themed Costume and Have a Party – After learning about flight, celebrate your new knowledge! Dress up like an aviator or an airplane. Serve food cut out in sky or space-themed shapes. Play games about flight and more. This is a perfect activity to do on December 17th, and the ideas of what to include in your party are endless. 

It is a wonder how airplanes and humans are able to be in the air. It is a mystery to many exactly what is needed to take flight. However, many people have created inventions and paved the way for this extraordinary achievement. Celebrate it with your kids and who knows, you may just have the next Amelia Earhart or groundbreaking pilot in your family. 



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