Paper rocket

Rocket fun for the family

(Then) four year-old boy’s homework:

Make or draw a rocket for this term’s topic on space.

Cue big grin on daddy’s face.

Me: Do you want to make one, or draw one?

Boy: Make one!

Me: Do you want to make a model, or one that flies.

Boy: One that flies!

Me: Excellent…

I love space.

I had a telescope as a lad, and used to love finding stars and planets to gaze at – if you haven’t peered through a telescope to see the rings on Saturn and not been blown away, you need to have a serious word with yourself.

I’d already been working on encouraging the kids’ interest in the skies – the boy’s library of space books is still growing, and the girl can’t look out of a window without looking for the moon.

I’m even running through a couple of Coursera courses on astronomy on my commute, including one on the science of the solar system by Mike Brown – aka Plutokiller).

So, this homework was a great chance to combine a couple of his favourite things: making and space.

He’d previously made a Christmas rocket for school (when asked to make something Christmassy for a local fair, that seemed to him a reasonable idea) so I figured we could go one better this time and see if we could pull together something more exciting.

I was conscious that I needed to make sure it was at his level as I don’t want to become one of those parents that does their kids’ homework for them – he’s got to learn through doing, test, experiment, and (importantly I think) fail.

So, to prepare for a the big making day, we spent evenings before bed looking through my copy of Backyard Ballistics and looking at a few YouTube clips to get an idea of what we wanted to do.

After his swimming lesson on Saturday morning, we nipped to the local timber merchants/DIY place to pick up a few essentials (length of PVC pipe and some electrical tape as he wanted blue and I only had green!) and popped in to the Co-Op for some cheap bottles of water (we don’t tend to buy things that come in the 2 litre bottles we needed).

Once home, we set to work.

[Cue A-Team theme music]

As it was homework, and his school use on online journal to record his learning, I’d set up a camera to film bits and bobs of it, and was taking pics too so they could see the whole process we went through (and prove it wasn’t just me doing it!).

Paper rocketFirst job – kettle on.


Then, armed with a cup or Yorkshire, we headed to the shed so he could measure and saw (under supervision!) the pipe to length before we moved inside for the make.

We then went back in, got some card from the craft bits and bobs and made the rockets, using the tubes to get the size right.

He needed a bit of help to get the cardboard tube nicely tight, but loved making the rocket – even decided to use some of the blue tape as windows on the rocket, which he later realised meant blocked one of the ‘wings’ later on in the make, so he adapted the design in subsequent models (learning through testing!).

Once we’d got it together, we made a flask of tea, threw some snacks in a bag and headed to the field over the road for our maiden flight.

He had the honour of the first launch, so I did the countdown, got told off for saying “stomp” instead of “blast off” and he set it flying!

Well, it went up ok.

But he’s a small child, who weighs not very much.

I however, am classed as overweight according to my BMI, so when it Rocket testingcame to my turn, I sent that bad boy right up!

If you watch the vid below, you’ll hear the shriek of a boy who was playing football with his dad as I set it off.

Have to say I was impressed.

So, we kept playing, fixed it when a bit came off, and the girl joined in too as she made a rocket and had a go (needs to work on her stomping as it turns out 2 year-olds suck at it).

I have to say, it was one of the best mornings I’ve had as a parent – doing something fun, that he really enjoyed, and hopefully will help inspire some more cool things in future.

I can’t stress how easy it was (and inexpensive – spent less than £4 on parts!) so urge everyone to do it

Even if you don’t have kids!


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