These helpful tricks and tips make building a home-made rocket – whether it be matchbox-based or sugar-fuelled – a fun way to spend an afternoon
#WhyNot get moving and build a homemade rocket?
The saying “It’s not rocket science” is bandied around all too often – but just how hard is it to build a rocket in the first place?
Not very, is the simple answer.
In fact, crafting a functioning rocket is a great activity to do with your kids – and one that will see them putting their school science lessons into practice in a fun, interactive way.
From paper aeroplanes to drones, our fascination with flying is as timeless as it is varied. While an expertly folded piece of paper is arguably a bit too humble for today’s iPad-armed children, forking out for electronic flying devices of dubious moral provenance and questionable safety is not for every parent, either.
Luckily, building a rocket is a decent compromise. Indeed, a quick rummage around most drawers at home should provide you with the materials needed to reach liftoff – provided you have the skill to put them all together. After that, it’s a question of how far you can make it go.
Whether you’re a Nasa engineer trying to fire a rocket into space or an eager dad vying to launch a water bottle into the orbit of the local park, the principal obstacle remains the same: gravity.
To overpower the gravitational force you need a thrust-providing engine of sorts – and once you’ve mastered this, well, the rocket world is your oyster. Just remember to wear safety glasses and keep little ones away from the blast.
Here are some of our favourite methods…
The humble matchstick rocket – made from a couple of matches, some tin foil, a safety pin and a paperclip – helps demonstrate the scientific principles behind take-off. But tweak this slightly and you’ll be able to make a rocket that shoots for more than 40 gravity-defying feet with speed, power and a satisfying trail of smoke.
Water bottle rocket
A bike pump and an adapted plastic water bottle are the main materials for this take on physical propulsion. Make a few adaptations – like these guys – and you’ll should be able to send your rocket more than 50 feet into the sky.
Baking soda and vinegar rocket
Mimicking the chemical reaction between a fuel and an oxidiser, this method provides the kind of thrust and combustion combo that you usually associate with rockets. And to prove it’s easy – here’s a video of a six-year-old giving it his best shot.
Also known as Caramel Candy rockets, these sugar and potassium nitrate-fuelled flyers are also powered by a chemical reaction – and have been known to soar more than 2,000 feet high. For serious rocket enthusiasts only!
Cola and sweets
For a much more unpredictable blast – and one you should absolutely not try with your kids – there’s always the old chewy-sweet-in-a-coke-bottle trick.
There are countless videos online with tips on how – and how not – to make your own rocket. The BBC has a detailed page on how to make most of the above rockets in a safe and responsible way. Those who are really serious about the task should watch this 45-minute documentary about firing a professional-looking home-made rocket into space.
Of course, the best advice is for you to set your sights low, experiment, follow the right scientific steps, take care and have some fun. And if you do succeed in hitting the heights then you’ll actually have the pleasure of being able to say, smugly, “Well, yes, it actually is rocket science”.
Felt is one of the cheapest crafting materials around, and one of the easiest to work with. It’s also a great crafting material for kids of nearly any age. With a little help, even pre-schoolers (or even toddlers) can make finger puppets that will delight them for hours.
I made simple Star Wars inspired puppets, but you can make finger puppets in any shape or theme you want to. Construct them from simple shapes, add googly eyes, button eyes, or if toddlers will be playing with them, draw the eyes on with permanent marker (ask me how I learned that!).
Finger puppets are a great open-ended craft; you can basically embellish them any way you want to. Choose a favorite animal, cartoon character, or a family member to get you started with your first puppet. If you have any kinds of themes going on in your life (I know some of you choose themes to focus on in homeschooling, etc. each week), you can just work a finger puppet activity into your theme.
Tips: If you have specific characters in mind (like these Star Wars guys), I recommend doing a quick sketch in your sketchbook so you know what pieces to cut out. I glued additional pieces to the backs of the heads to reinforce the puppets, since regular craft felt is not very stiff.
Not confident in your drawing skills? No worries – just use basic shapes like triangles (body), ovals and circles (heads). You can always pre-cut shapes out to trace to make it easier. Don’t get too detailed in extra body parts (see how I simplified the faces and the arms/feet?). Also, don’t be too critical of your art skills!! This is very important. Your child won’t care if everything looks perfect, and will learn a lot from seeing you create without criticizing yourself! This will not be graded!
- 3 or more sheets of felt, about $1 (a quarter or so a sheet)
- Craft glue (I used Aleene’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue), on hand
- (optional) Googly eyes, on hand or a huge pack for $1
Total: $1 and up
Heather Mann is a regular contributor at Make and Takes. She’s is the mother of two boys under age 3, and another boy on the way. She publishes Dollar Store Crafts, a daily blog devoted to hip crafting at dollar store prices, CROQ Zine, a print magazine devoted to hip crafting, and also CraftFail, a community blog that encourages crafters to share their not-so-successful craft attempts
|Recycle a small box into a cute Santa sleigh. Color and cut out paper reindeer or make some toilet paper tube reindeer to pull your box sleigh.|
- Keep the stapler and hot glue gun out of young children’s reach.
- Watch out for this sign . It means adult help is needed for the particular step.
|1.||Find a small or medium-sized block-shaped box. Make a simple sleigh pattern on paper and trace this onto one of the box’s side panel.|
|2.||Trace the same sleigh pattern onto the opposite box panel. Draw a straight line connecting the ends of the two sleigh outlines.|
|3.||Cut out the basic sleigh shape following the marked outlines.|
|4.||Glue or staple any open flaps.|
|5.||If you want to make a seat for your sleigh, cut out a strip of cardboard (use the box scraps from Step 3) and fold down both ends so that the piece fits just right into your sleigh. Glue the seat inside the box sleigh.|
|6.||Paint your sleigh with acrylic paint. You may leave the sleigh interior unpainted if you like.|
|7.||Cut 2 pieces of drinking straw to the same length as your sleigh’s width. Use white glue or for an extra sturdy sleigh, use hot glue gun to attach each drinking straw about an inch from the edge of the sleigh’s bottom surface.|
|8.||Cut 2 more drinking straws, this time the pieces should be as long as your sleigh’s length. Glue them at right angles with the first pair of drinking straws and each one positioned about ½ inch from the edge of the sleigh.|
|9.||Once the glue dries, you may put your sleigh in an upright position. You can decorate your sleigh further if you like. I decorated mine with a touch of glitter glue along the curved top edges.|
|10.||Draw some reindeer or print out any of these reindeer templates onto card stock.
Color and cut out the reindeer.
|11.||To make the reindeer stand upright, you will need to make paper stands for them. Cut out the same number of ½-inch wide strips of card stock as the number of reindeer that you have. The length of a paper stand should be approximately the same as or slightly shorter than the sleigh’s width.
Cut a short slit close to each end of a paper stand. Make a pair of short slits at the base of each paper reindeer as well. The locations of the slits are circled in red in both photos.
|12.||Join a pair of reindeer using two paper stands – one stand interlocking with the slits on both reindeer’s front legs and the other stand interlocking with the slits on the hind legs.|
|13.||Connect each row of reindeer by taping a string from the back of one reindeer to the next.|
|14.||Punch a pair of holes at the front of the sleigh. Connect the reindeer to the sleigh by fastening the ends of the strings around the holes.|
|15.||In case you want to add a Santa, you can draw one or print out any of these Santa Claus templates. Color, cut out and glue the Santa inside the sleigh.
Use a Z-shaped tab to prop up your Santa from the back (top photo) or two L-shaped tabs to keep him in place (bottom photo).
You may also just crease your Santa in the middle and along the knees and have him “sit down” on the sleigh’s seat.
|16.||You can connect the strings to your Santa Claus as if he is holding the reins. Punch a pair of holes on your Santa’s hands and insert the ends of the strings through the holes. Make knots on the strings at the back of your Santa Claus.|
|17.||That’s it! The sleigh can be filled with candy, small toys and pretend presents.|
|Use your Santa Sleigh craft as a Christmas treat holder. Fill it with candy canes, chocolate, and holiday treats.
You can also try making this cute Toilet Paper Tube Reindeer to pull your Santa Sleigh.
Chocolate balloon bowls recipe
Recipe created by Melissa Hughes for Kidspot. .
Blow up the balloons to approximately the size of a lemon. This takes quite a bit of puff and there will be a few balloon casualties.
Egg free, Nut free
- 100g PLAISTOWE Classic Milk Cooking Chocolate, melted
- 12 water balloons
- Lollies (I had marshmallows and Smarties)
- Fruit (I had banana and strawberry)
Blow up the balloons to approximately the size of a lemon.
This takes quite a bit of puff and there will be a few balloon casualties.
Place a sheet of baking paper on your work surface.
Place the melted chocolate in a small, deep bowl and when the chocolate is quite cool, hold the tied end of the balloon and dip into the chocolate.
I use a swirling, dunking technique so that the chocolate comes 2cm up the side of the balloon.
Keep holding the balloon and place on the baking paper, hold it there for about 30 seconds until the chocolate starts to set and it will stand on its own.
Repeat with remaining balloons.
When the chocolate is set, gather the children, arm them with toothpicks and pop the balloons.
The bits of balloon are easy to pull away from the chocolate.
Transfer each cup to a plate and let the kids choose their fillings.
Leftover cups can be stored in an airtight container.
- These are so much fun to make, great for a party idea too.
- Trust me, the kids will love to pop their balloon (my ears are still ringing) and then fill with their favourite fillings.
- I used Woolworths Select Milk Cooking Chocolate for the first time and was quite impressed. Chocolate melted well and tasted yummy, not cheap and nasty.
- Fill the chocolate cups with your kids’ favourite lollies, fruit, yoghurt, icecream etc.