Program Idea: Parachute Playtime

This summer I offered a parachute playtime for kids 2-3 and 4-5. The idea for this program came from the genius that is my close personal friend Miss Lisa, so make sure you stop by her blog to see what activities she includes in her parachute programs. In addition to her program, I also got ideas from Parachute Play by Liz and Dick Wilmes

I like to do a lot of nursery rhymes with the parachute for a few reasons:
  1. Parents/kids are more likely to participate in activities where the content is already familiar
  2. I already know them so I don't have to learn a whole bunch of material at once (just being honest here)
  3. Easy for the families to replicate this activities at home with whatever props they might have. If they (or you!) don't have a parachute, a bed sheet or blanket can be substituted easily. Even a beach towel would work for one parent and one child to play together.  This is my mean reason and I tried to hammer this in at all three programs I did the past two weeks! 
Parachute Activities
I picked different activities from this list for each group, depending on how the program was flowing. 
  • Introduction (We started each program by saying "Good Morning" to the parachute and giving it a "wake up" shake. I just think it's good manners to say "good morning.") 
  • Rules
  • Warm-up Activity: "If You're Happy and You Know It" 
    • clap your hands
    • stamp your feet
    • shake the chute
    • turn around (while holding the chute)
    • pass the chute (to your neighbor)  
    • pull it high (above your head)
  • Pass the Chute (a rhyme I found in Parachute Play. It's on page 75.) You can find the words on slide 24 of this PowerPoint. 
  • "The Grand Old Duke of York"
  • "The Hokey Pokey" (Track 7 on Disney's More Dancin' Tunes) It is surprisingly (or maybe not?) hard to find a decent version of this song. 
  • "The Wheels on the Bus"
    • The wheels on the bus go round and round (pass the chute or walk in a circle, if standing)
    • Door s on the bus go open and shut (pull chute forward and backward)
    • The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish (shake the chute)
    • The babies on the bus go waaa, waaa, waaa (use the chute as a handkerchief)
    • The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep (pretend the chute is a horn and beep it!) 
  • "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (traditional and shouty lyrics!) 
  • "Motorboat, Motorboat
  • "Alabama, Mississippi" from Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tune
    • Lift the chute up on Alabama, lower it on Mississippi. Lift on Alabama and shake it down to New Orleans. Keep shaking on the floor and then raise again for Alabama. 
  • "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" 
  • "Jump, Jump" by Joanie Leeds (Track 6 on I'm a Rock Star) Thanks Angie for introducing this CD to me! 
  • "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" with stuffed monkeys
  • "Ring Around the Rosie" and "Cows in the Meadow" This link has some great ideas for other movements you can do around the chute, like galloping and tiptoeing. 
  • "Popcorn" by Joanie Leeds (Track 8 on I'm a Rock Star) with these little monster-y ball-shaped stuffed things we have.Cotton balls or packing peanuts would work too. But I didn't want to clean up that mess 3 times (I did this program twice for 2- and 3 year-olds and one time for the older group).
  • Shark Attack: Have the kids sit with their feet under the chute. Crawl under and pretend to be a shark biting their toes. Have them yell out "SHARK ATTACK!"  For extra fun, play the "Jaws" theme in the background. 
  • Every program needs a little Raffi. Two songs to try that would be fun are "Spider on the Floor" (I've also done this with scarves) and "Shake My Sillies Out," which could be a great starter or throw it any time you need to perk up the energy in the room a little bit! 
  • Cover Up: Another game from Parachute Play. The kids sit on the chute and you call out a body part, which they then cover up with the chute. 
  • Johnny Works With One Hammer. It doesn't really have anything to do with parachutes, but I always enjoy this one. You could pretend to use the chute as covers if you end with "then he falls asleep!" 
  • “Hoki Hoki/Nga Waka” (Track 12: A World of Parachute Play by Georgiana Stewart) In this song you pretend to be drumming on the parachute. 
  • Simon Says. Or, if you've still got that Joanie Leeds CD hanging around, "Joanie Says" is Track 11.
  • Soccer Chute (Track 8: World of Parachute Play) Throw a soccer ball on the chute and let the kids kick it with their feet and knees. See how long you can keep it on the chute!  Prop: Nerf-type balls
  • Some of the ideas from Parachute Play that I couldn't try involved pretending the chute was a monster and "burping" balls through the hole, pretending the parachute was a golf hole and having the kids work together to get a ball through it. Our chute doesn't have a hole in the center! It's just mesh. Oh well! 
  • Cat and Mouse: OK, our parachute isn't big enough for this, but I watched a YouTube video of a middle school gym class and this game looks hilarious! Basically one person is a "cat" on top of the parachute, and there is a mouse underneath. The rest of the group makes waves with the parachute to help hide the mouse, while the cat tries to tag the mouse. 
  • "Duck, Duck, Goose" and chase each other around the parachute. This was a big hit, even though a lot of kids apparently don't know how to play this game anymore?!? What is the world coming to? 
  • Big Finish: Parachute Fireworks (idea from Parachute Play, page 111) The kids make fireworks by crumbling construction paper and toss them onto the chute. You all stand up, everyone counts "1, 2, 3, 4, 5- FIREWORKS!" and all together you pop the chute as high as you can in the air, to launch the fireworks. 
  • End with having everyone roll the parachute together. Then, if you've still got a few minutes, you can use that as your limbo stick and limbo! That same Disney's More Dancin' Tunes has the "Limbo Rock" (Track 5). 
If you're interested in trying a parachute program with babies (FUN!), Julia wrote about hers. So has Kendra.

Update: Don't miss my 2014 parachute program! 


  1. Wow Anne, this is an amazing article. I am starting a music and movement program this fall and I know that I could incorporate some of these activities within that program using my small parachute. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I am buying a parachute this fall and copying this basically word for word. THANK You for sharing.

  3. Thank you Anne! This is an outstanding resource. :) ~ jane

  4. Holy cow! Now have more material for toddler parachute time than I could use! No, that's not possible.
    Thanks for the post and the shout out.

  5. What great ideas! Thank you for passing them on!


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