One of our family’s favorite Fourth of July traditions is to get up SUPER early, and drive to a nearby town to watch a hot air balloon launch. They spread out the balloons on a large grassy area, while spectators pile in, filling up the spaces in between. It’s cool because you can get right up close and see all the action. My kids love it.
This year, (being the obsessive unit-study guru that I sometimes am) I decided to put together some activities for the kids, to get us all prepared for our big day.
First we headed to the library, and checked out a few books on hot air balloons. Our favorites were The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr, The Amazing Air Balloon by Jean Van Leeuwen, and Hot Air: The (mostly) True Story of the First Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman. In these books we learned some great vocabulary words, a little bit about how hot air balloons work, and some cool historical facts.
We made sun-catchers; a simple craft, but one that is always a big hit because it’s doable for kids of all ages. We usually do these in the fall, with apples or pumpkins, but this craft is easily adaptable to whatever your needs are. This time we made hot air balloon sun-catchers.
- Find a black and white template of a hot air balloon that you like. Doing a Google search for “hot air balloon template” will give you some good options. Print it on card stock.
- Use a thick black magic marker to make the outlines about half an inch thick.
- Cut out around the outside and inside of your template, so that all you’re left with is the black out line.
- Place the outline, black side down, onto a piece of clear contact paper. (You can find contact paper at WalMart in the kitchen section by the shelving paper.)
- Use colored tissue paper of your choice, rip it into small pieces, and press it down onto the contact paper to fill in the clear spots of your template. It’s ok if the tissue paper pieces overlap each other.
- Take a second piece of contact paper and press it down on top of the tissue paper layer. Then use scissors to cut out the outside edge of your template.
- Hang your template up in the window where lots of sun can shine through.
My husband got into it too, and helped the kids construct a mini hot air balloon out of trash bags, tape, string, and a plastic cup. He used a hair dryer to inflate it, and taught the kids about how hot air rises and that’s why balloons go up.
Over all, I’d say the unit was a success. The kids had a good time, and maybe even learned a little bit too. It made our hot air balloon launch tradition all the more exciting.