Go Fly a Kite

Want an activity that's popular with children, can be done anywhere there's unobstructed open space, and that can cost little or nothing? Take your kids kite flying!

Flying kites is one of the universals of childhood. Kites have been around for hundreds of years, and while people have diligently tried to make them useful - consider Benjamin Franklin and his famous experiment - they have always remained, first and foremost, an easy way to have fun outdoors. And what can have a higher priority than having fun with your children?

A good way to begin is to stop by your local convenience store, all-purpose pharmacy, or 5 & 10, and pick up an inexpensive plastic delta-style kite. The delta is virtually fail-safe: easy to launch, and it doesn't require a tail for flight. The basic delta will probably cost about $2.00. Look over the other kites, by all means; different types and styles await you once you've mastered the basics. But anyone can fly a delta, so it's a good beginner's choice.

You'll also need string, of course, and the store will usually have a bucket of kite string, with rolls costing between 29 and 79 cents. This is fine for your purposes, although when you move up to bigger kites you'll have to be aware of the line's breaking strength.

Finally, you'll need something to wind the string on. This can be as simple as a strong stick, or it can be a winder as complex as a fishing reel (and some aficionados use rods and reels to fly their kites!); but anything is better than trying to control a ball of string. Also, by winding it on to something, you can make sure that the end is tied; many kites have been lost when the end of the line simply slipped away. I'd start with a stick.

First, never, never fly a kite near power lines, which pose a danger to anyone who contacts them. Also, avoid locations where the kite could fly over a highway or busy street, since an out-of-control kite could startle drivers and cause an accident. And be aware at all times that the string can cut or burn your hands-use the stick or winder to take up or let out line, and hold onto the winder rather than the string when flying the kite.

Check the wind direction. Kites need to be launched into the wind, which means that you have to be standing upwind of the kite. And once you know which way the wind is blowing, you'll be able to position yourself so that your kite will fly in the open and well away from any trees, which have a voracious appetite for eating kites.

To launch, hold the kite up by its keel so that it is facing into the wind. If there's a steady breeze, the delta will take off by itself as soon as you let it go, and you can gradually feed out line. Otherwise, hold the kite while your child holds the winder, and when you're ready, have him or her run upwind; the kite will climb easily, but if they run sideways or downwind, the kite will flutter back to earth.

Now that it's in the air, the line can be paid out and the kite will climb. It will go extremely high if you let it, but remember, someone is going to have to reel in all that line eventually, and that someone is likely to be you. There's no need to set an altitude record-you and your kids are just learning.

If the kite dives, let out the line a little and then tighten it again. No need to jerk it hard, and anyway, you don't want to accidentally snap the string! This should change the direction the kite is pointing, and let it climb again. If you let out line too fast, or the wind briefly dies, the kite will lose its lift; simply reel it in steadily and it should recover.

If an accident should happen, you can usually repair a plastic delta kite with a little tape, and if the kite does get lost in a tree, just forget it and get another-they're cheap enough.

Until plastics took over, most kites were made of either paper or cloth. Almost any book on kites in the local library will have designs that can be followed to produce many traditional kites. It's usually just a matter of making a simple framework of dowels, running a tight string around the periphery, and gluing a paper cover to the string.

There are also plans for paper-fold kites, kites that can be made from a single sheet of writing paper, without a framework, and flown with light thread. When our children were small, we used to take them to the local park with a number of pre-made paper-fold kites, each with only about 25 feet of string wrapped in a clothespin or pencil. They could run about to their heart's content, trailing a small kite behind them, and when the kites got damaged or destroyed, it was an easy task to make some more.

To make one of these easy kites, fold a sheet of paper lengthwise, but only press the fold for about two-thirds of its length. Bend the two front corners around so they meet outside the fold an inch or two back from the end, and staple them in place through the fold. Put a piece of tape an inch behind the staple, punch a hole through the tape, and tie on a piece of string or thread...and it's done!

Enough talk; it's time to go out and have some traditional fun with your children. And don't forget to let them have a turn!

Article provided by Homesteader.

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