You’ll need

  • A platform to drop things from, like a chair, table or balcony
  • Toys, like blocks and different-sized toys. Make sure they’re not breakable!
  • Pieces of paper
  • Things to make parachutes, like a plastic bag, baking paper or a piece of fabric, and some string or yarn
  • Tape

What to do


This activity involves heights. Be careful if kids are sitting on a chair or table to drop their parachute. Be careful using plastic bags around young children.

  1. Get your platform ready to drop things from.
  2. Try dropping some of your toys from the platform and see what happens.
  3. Now drop 2 flat pieces of paper. Do they fall at the same speed?
  4. Scrunch one piece into a ball and drop the paper ball and the flat paper. Do they fall at the same speed?
  5. Now make a parachute. Use pieces of string and tape to attach a piece of paper to a toy to make the toy a parachute. Watch how the parachute changes the way the toy falls.
  6. Try using different materials to make your parachute. Feel and describe the different materials and predict how each material will affect how the parachute falls. Will it fall fast or slow?
  7. Test your parachutes and count to see how long they take to reach the ground. When dropping parachutes, the higher the better, so you may want to stand on a chair.

Questions to ask

Do all things fall at the same speed?

What makes a good parachute? Why do some materials fall slower than others? Try making different-shaped parachutes, and with different materials. Can you make one that stays in the air a long time?

What happens if you put a hole in the middle of your parachute? How does that effect the way it falls? Experiment with changing the size of the hole, where you put the hole and how many holes you put in the parachute.

What's happening

Things fall to the ground because of gravity. Gravity is a force from the Earth that pulls things down to the ground. You can’t see gravity, but you notice it everytime something falls!

The flat piece of paper has a larger surface area than the scrunched up piece of paper. This allows it to fall slower than the ball of paper, because more air can push up against it and slow down how fast it falls. This is called resistance.

Parachutes work similarly to the piece of paper. Parachutes have a large surface area, so things that are attached to it don’t fall as fast. Bigger parachutes will work better than smaller ones.

The material of the parachute matters, too. Materials that don’t let any any air through work the best. If air can move through the parachute, there is less resistance and the parachute doesn’t work as well. This is why your parachute didn’t work very well after you poked holes in it.