Kids Kite Workshops

Kids and kites just seem to go together. In these days of video games, cell phones and tablets, when manual dexterity seems to be going by the wayside, it is still possible for kids of all ages to make their own kite that will fly better than a kite from a store. There are many simple, easy tricks to make the experience of flying a kite magnificent instead of miserable. We will try to share some of them here.

What is a kite?
A kite is a heavier-than-air object which is lifted in to the sky when held in to the wind by a string. The shape of a kite defines what kind of kite it is, but kites come in many, many different shapes. There are so many different shapes that national Kite Making Competitions generally divide them up in to different categories such as Arch & Ribbon kites, Cellular and dimensional (Box) kites, Delta & Delta Derivative kites, Flat & Bowed kites, Fighter kites, Figure kites, Rokkaku (Japanese Battle) kites, Soft (no sticks) kites, Stunt & Sport (2 or 4 string) kites, and Trains & Centipedes.


 
Rokkaku
 
Cellular
 
cody
 Rokkaku Kite
 Cellular (Facet) Kite
 Samuel Franklin Cody War Box Kite
     
 
arch
 
soft
 
circoflex
 63-kite Arch Kite
 252 square foot Soft Kite. No sticks.
 8-foot wide Circoflex Kite

Fun Facts:
Did you know that the first bridge over the gorge at Niagara Falls was started by a kite that was flown over the gorge and landed on the opposite bank? Did you know that the Cody Box Kite was used for aerial observation in the late 1800's? Did you know that the simple Triangle (Delta) Kite was first designed by NASA Engineer Francis Rogallo as a possible re-entry device for Mercury Space Capsules? Did you know that the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was also famous as the inventor of the Bell Tetrahedron Kite?

 
tetra
 
Delta
 Alexander Graham Bell Tetrahedron kite
 Delta Kite (Mercury Capsule Re-entry Device)


Kite Flying Basics:
DON'T RUN! Running doesn't work, but it is a great way to get hurt, or hurt the kite, or hurt someone else or their kite. At our workshops we fly a kite indoors to show that running is not necessary. It is part of our demonstration of what to do when two kites tangle in the sky.

Kite Eating Tree:
It is very, very easy to keep a kite out of a tree. The person flying the kite just needs to be a little smarter, and a little faster, than the average tree. Most trees don't seem to move around very much. But many kite fliers think they absolutely must move around until they can lose their kite in a tree. Successful kite fliers make sure that their kite is never over a tree. That way the kite never ends up in the tree.

Kite Tails:
Why do kites have tails? So you can tell when they are happy. The truth is, most kites do not need a tail. The old myth says that if the kite does not fly, for any reason, add tail. In fact, there are times when adding tail can be like drilling holes in the bottom of the boat to let the water out. In theory, a tail steers an erratic kite, acting like a rudder to automagically correct the kite from swerving back and forth. In fact, the tail adds weight, adds drag, and changes the Center of Gravity of the kite, to make it fly at a lower angle to the wind. On most kites, the same effect could be accomplished by adjusting the bridle just a little bit.

Kite String: Care and Feeding
Kites require string to fly. String can be a kiter's best friend, or worst enemy. The short version is: Be good to your string, and it will be good to you. Make your string unhappy, and it will get even with you, the first chance it gets.How do we keep our string happy? Never, ever, coil, or gather, string in the hand. That is an instant bird's nest. Avoid at all times putting twists in to the string. Twisted string becomes tangled string. I promise. Most people are completely unaware that they way they wind their string adds twists to it. They are quite amazed when they are shown a different string-winding technique and the loose end of their string just spins and spins as the twist come out when wound properly. One last thing about string and flying: Don't be afraid to PUT THE WINDER DOWN! Most people, kids especially, have a Death Grip on the winder and it goes wherever they go, even when the kite is on the ground. An experienced kite flyer, if their kite crashes, the first thing they do is drop the winder. That way the string is on the ground in a nearly perfect straight line. There is no opportunity for it to twist up and tangle.

Pick a Good Spot to Fly Kites:
Kites need wind. The smoother the wind is, the happier the kite is. Obstacles create lumpy, bumpy wind that makes kites unhappy. Any obstacle (Trees, Buildings, Hills) blocks the wind. An obstacle also creates turbulence (lumps and bumps in the wind) for a distance 7 times the height of the obstacle. So if we are on a field that has 40-foot trees along the side of the field that the wind is coming from, we need to get (7 times 40) 280 feet (almost a football field!) away from the trees, in the direction the wind is blowing, to find 'clean' wind.

Kite Fliers like to fly near water, especially when the wind is coming from the water (onshore), because there are no obstacles in the water to break up the wind. It is about wind quality, not quantity.

KIDS KITE WORKSHOPS

Thanks for making it this far down the page! All of the information above, and much more, is covered in Kids Kite Workshops. We bring a few kites to show differences and how some designs grew out of other designs. Most of the kites we bring are kites I have sewn. We also bring different kinds of kite string and kite string winders to show pluses and minuses.

 
kites
 
 
kites

If it doesn't fly, it is not a kite. Call it a Wall Hanging, Soft Sculpture, or Fabric Art. But not a kite. So when people make kites with us, we want them to make kites that fly well, even if their workmanship is a little sloppy. Our favorite, and most successful, Kids Workshop Kite is the Polymorphic (Sled) Kite.


The Sled Kite was designed by William Allison in Dayton, Ohio in 1950. It is a superb, reliable kite. Allison patented it as a "Polymorphic" kite. Polymorphic means "many shapes". That means that the kite changes shape to fit the wind. After receiving his Patent, Allison wanted to call his kite a Flexible Flyer. After all, the kite flies, and it is very flexible. But, back then, there was a very popular Snow Sled called the Flexible Flyer. So, Allison's name was already taken. 

But kite fliers love a pun. William Allison could not call his kite a Flexible Flyer, because the Flexible Flyer was a Sled, so kiters began calling Allison's kite a Sled and the name stuck We have been calling them Sleds ever since.

When my wife allows me to go with her to Wal-Mart, I always ask the Cashier for one of the larger store bags that they keep behind the register. They make great Sled Kites. I like to keep a couple of these in the kite bag to be able to give away to people who are having trouble with a store-bought kite.

There are Plans for making a 'regular' Sled Kite, and a Sled Kite from a Kinko's Bag (which does not need sticks!) on this web site.


The Sled Kites we make in workshops use Tyvek for the sails, and have fiberglass sticks that won't break. The corners are reinforced for the Bridle. With kids, it seems that no matter how many times they are reminded not to run, they run. And when they run, the kite is invariably upside-down, bouncing along the ground. So the place where the bridle string attaches to the kite is reinforced with dowels. The objective is for the Workshop Kite Builder to have a good flying experience.

 
drawing
 
fly
 
build
 The kites can be drawn on with pencil, crayon and marker.
 Now that is kite flying!
 Are you knotty? Do you know the best knots?
We pre-tie the tough spots to make it fast and easy.

Fly!

Contact us:
Gary & Maggie Engvall
E-mail: gengvall@cox.net and maggiekite@cox.net
Phone: 401-942-3606



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