Skip to main content

Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Perfect parascending parachutes

Create your own canopies and watch them fly.

Back to Activities

You’ll need

  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape
  • String
  • Plastic tablecloths
  • Marker pens
  • Elastic cord
  • Barrel fishing swivel clips
  • Devices with access to the internet (optional)
Parachute statements
PDF – 70.7KB
Illustrated instructions (Perfect parascending parachutes)
PDF – 123.3KB

Before you begin

  • You could start with ‘It’s a drag’ from Drag it, lift it, thrust it, weigh it to introduce the basic theory of flight and air resistance.
  • It’s up to you whether you let everyone loose to research online or whether you use the 'Parachute statements' matching activity. You know your group best, so choose whichever will work for them.
  • The instructions are for creating a round canopy as they’re commonly used for parascending. People could get creative, though. They could make a different shaped parachute based on their research, or even make more than one parachute and compare how well they work.
  • Everyone will need a 60 cm square of lightweight plastic tablecloth. You could also use white bin liners (so you can still draw on them) or even reuse worn-out bags for life. You may want to cut these out before the session to save time.
  • Swivel clips are useful as they stop everything getting tangled, but your parachutes will work without them if you can’t get any.
  • It’s up to you whether you make sky balls or just use toys you already have. If you want to make sky balls, you’ll need balloons, rice, empty 500 ml bottles, scissors, and elastic cord; the instructions are below. You could even use eggs and challenge teams to make a parachute that protects the egg when it’s dropped from a height.
  • Plan ahead and send out the instructions in advance so everyone knows what equipment they’ll need to do this activity online at home. You could think about safely delivering the equipment to group members if it’d be appropriate and manageable for your group.
  • Start your online session with ‘Do your research’ and chat through the statements as a group. You could ask everyone to show a thumbs up or down as you read the statements about different parachute canopies.
  • Think about how you’ll demonstrate the craft: you could set up a camera on a makeshift tripod so that everyone can easily see your hands as you’re completing the different steps.
  • Challenge everyone to test out their parachutes between meetings – maybe they could share some photos or videos of them in action next time you meet online.
  • Check out the advice on using Zoom and other popular digital platforms and the guidance on being safe online.

Do your research

  1. The person leading the activity should explain that different types of parachutes have different features that make them suited to different situations.
  2. Everyone should get into small groups.
  3. If they’re using the internet, each group should research parachute examples. They should start by looking at the differences between round canopy parachutes and ram-air canopy parachutes. Once they’ve finished, each group should take it in turns to tell everyone what they found.

The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association website’s a great place to start your research.

  1. If they’re not using the internet, the person leading the activity should give everyone the cut-out parachute statements. The groups should sort them into two groups – one for round canopies and one for ram-air canopies. Once they’ve finished, the person leading the activity should reveal the correct answers.

Craft a parachute

Check out the ‘Illustrated’ to help you follow the steps below.

  1. Get a 60 cm square piece of thin plastic.
  2. Fold the square in half, then in half again. There should now be four layers of plastic squares that are 30 cm square.
  3. Use a ruler to draw a 12 cm square starting from the four loose corners and carefully cut it out.

Make sure you’re using the four loose corners – it won’t work if you cut into a folded edge.

  1. Unfold the canopy and lay it out. It should be a plus shape.
  2. Stick the two edges on each corner of the canopy together using sticky tape. This should make the parachute ‘pop up’ to become more 3D. Put the sticky tape at the edge of each corner of the canopy, leaving a gap to create a slit for an air vent.

It’s important to leave the air vents and not tape along the entire edge – the air vents let air escape in a controlled way, so it doesn’t leak out from underneath and make the parachute rock as it descends.

  1. Cut two pieces of string that are 75 cm long. Mark around 3 cm from each end of the string using a pen and ruler.
  2. Stick the end of one piece of string inside a taped corner of the parachute. Line up the 3 cm mark with the edge of the canopy so 3 cm of string is inside.

Some string should stick out once you’ve put the first bit of tape on. Fold this over before you tape it, so the string doesn’t just slip out from underneath the tape as the parachute falls.

  1. Attach the other end of the string to the next corner of the canopy in the same way.
  2. Hold the two corners of the canopy together and stretch the string out to find the middle. Tie a knot in the middle to create a small loop.
  3. Repeat steps seven to nine with the other piece of string and other two corners. Try to make sure the loops are as even as possible.

The two looped strings are the parachute’s suspension lines.

  1. Thread some elastic cord through both of the loops. Tie a knot in one end of the elastic cord to attach it to the loops. Tie a swivel hook to the other end of the elastic cord and trim any excess. These are the parachute’s links and harness.

Alternatively, attach a swivel clip to each end of the elastic cord and attach the clips to the loops.

Time to fly

  1. Everyone should run through the different parts of their parachute. Can they find the canopy, vents, suspension lines, and harness?
  2. Everyone should use a sky ball, toy, or egg to the parachute’s swivel clips, in place of a parascender.
  3. Everyone should fold their parachute. They should hold the top of the canopy in the centre, pull the strings straight, and squeeze any air out of the canopy. Then, they should fold the top of the canopy over to where the suspension lines start and roll it tightly into a ball.

The tighter people pack their parachutes, the longer they’ll take to open so the higher they should be able to throw their parascender.

  1. Once the canopy’s folded, everyone should wrap the suspension lines and elastic cording around it.
  2. Everyone should take it in turns to hold their parascender and parachute in one end and throw them into the air. They should throw them as far and high as possible.
  3. Once everyone’s thrown their parachute a few times, they should gather back together.
  4. Everyone should think about how the parachute works to catch air and slow the parascender’s fall. Can they explain what’s happening using terms like ‘drag’ and ‘air resistance’?

To put it simply, parachutes work by increasing air resistance as someone falls.

Remember, you can use toys or eggs instead of sky balls if you don’t want to make them.

  1. Measure out about a third of a cup of rice and pour it into the empty water bottle.
  2. Blow up a balloon and twist the end so the air can’t escape. Without untwisting the end, stretch the mouth of the balloon over the top of the bottle. Don’t worry too much if you can’t blow up the balloon so it’s massive – as long as there’s room for the rice, and the neck is nice and stretched, it’ll be fine. 
  3. Turn everything upside down, then untwist the end of the balloon so the rice falls into the balloon. Shake the bottle to make sure all of the grains end up in the balloon.
  4. Carefully remove the balloon from the bottle. Slowly let all of the air out, then tie a knot in the neck to seal the rice inside. Cut off any excess balloon above the knot.
  5. To make sure the sky ball doesn’t break, grab another balloon and stretch it over the entire ball. Tie a knot in the neck, and trim off the excess again. You could add more layers if you want to – why not cut some holes in the final layer to create a cool pattern?
  6. Tie some elastic cord to the balloon underneath the knot. Tie it as tightly as you can. Attach a swivel clip to the other end of the elastic cord, so you can attach the sky ball to your parachute.

You will need

  • Balloons (optional)
  • Rice (optional)
  • Empty 500ml bottles (optional)


This activity was all about developing skills. Did anyone learn anything new about parascending or how parachutes work? Has anyone tried parascending (or another activity that uses a parachute) before? If not, would anyone like to give it a go? How would they feel about using a parachute for real? Sometimes, learning about how things work can help people to feel more confident about trying out a new activity. When else might giving something a go on a smaller scale help people to tackle a big challenge or adventure?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

  • You could make a simpler design by cutting a shape (such as a square, circle, or octagon) from the material and attaching strings.
  • Anyone who’s feeling adventurous could try to use the same materials to make a modern, square, ram-air canopy. It’s more widely used for paragliding, but some people use it for parascending too. There’s plenty of information online, for example, on Wikipedia or Ten random facts.
  • If there’s time, try experimenting with attaching more or less weight or dropping the parachutes from different heights. How do these things affect their flight?
  • If you want to launch the parascenders really high, try using a handheld water balloon slingshot.
  • People could work in pairs or small groups if anyone struggles with any of the fiddly aspects of making the parachute.
  • You could also drop them from a height or use a water balloon slingshot, if that’s easier than launching them. If some people struggle to drop or launch their parachutes, you could get one person to launch them all to give them all a ‘fair test’ under similar conditions.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Why not give parascending a go? You’ll find all you need to know on our parascending page. Anyone who enjoyed this activity may want to get stuck in to the Air Activities Staged Activity Badge.