Whirly Twirly Flying Birds

There’s something magical about flight.  It’s the power of science and engineering mixed with the magic of nature.   These Whirly Twirly Flying Birds can help kids learn the principles behind how birds (and airplanes!) fly.

Learn what makes flying birds fly with this fun balloon activity for kids. It's an easy to do activity perfect for STEM / STEAM learning.

Learn what makes flying birds fly with this fun balloon activity for kids. It's an easy to do activity perfect for STEM / STEAM learning.Learn what makes flying birds fly with this fun balloon activity for kids. It's an easy to do activity perfect for STEM / STEAM learning.

How do Birds Fly?

Birds use two things to make themselves fly. The first is lift. When air quickly moves across a bird’s wings, it creates a difference in pressure between the top of the wing and the bottom of the wing.  The slow moving air under the wing wins out in the high pressure war, causing the wing (and the bird!) to rise or lift.

The second thing that makes birds fly is thrust. In order to get that fast moving air on the top of their wings, birds flap them. As they push their wings down creating thrust, the air speeds up and lift takes place.

Whirly Twirly Flying Birds

Left Brain Craft Brain is kind of known for elaborate engineering posts, but sometimes, simple is the most magical. Since we’re not making a drone or robotic bird here, we’re going to artificially supply our birds with some thrust and lift. It’s coming from a balloon and some feathers.

Two Birds Flying Left Brain Craft Brain

The thrust from the balloon happens because the rubber of the balloon wants to return to it’s natural, un-stretched state and pushes the air out.  The escaping air puts a downward force on the outside air, pushing the balloon upwards.  As the balloon rises from the downward thrust of the air, some fast air moves across the feather wings of the balloon giving it even more lift.

Supplies Needed

  • 11″ Balloons
  • Clear tape
  • Feathers
  • Clothespins
  • Sharpie marker

Whirly Bird Supplies Left Brain Craft Brain

It’s really simple to make the birds.  First, blow up the balloon, twist the neck of the balloon closed and clip with a clothespin.  Then draw your face on the bird.  Next, pick two feathers for each wing and tape ends onto balloon.  I don’t recommend adding too many feathers or the birds won’t fly as well because they’re too heavy.  Safety Note:  Be sure to account for all the deflated balloons as they can pose a choking hazard if swallowed.

Bird Ready to Fly Left Brain Craft Brain

Let the Birds Fly

Now comes for the fun part!  Just unclip the balloon and toss it upwards in the air.  There was lots of giggling the first time we let the birds fly. And my daughter wanted to fly these over and over again.

Whirly Bird Release Left Brain Craft Brain

Think Like An Engineer

This is a good time to think like an engineer and start learning from trial and error.  Some questions to ask:

  • Does the placement of the feathers make a difference in how it flies?  Which works best?
  • How many feathers does it take to make the bird too heavy to fly?
  • What type of release gives the bird the most lift?
  • How many birds can we fly at once?
  • And my favorite…  Why did the balloon pop when it hit the bush?  :)

Here’s a quick video of us flying the birds at the park.  For reference, that big tree in the background is at least a hundred feet tall.  We couldn’t believe how far the birds flew before they lost all of their thrust power.

Why Do Balloons Spin When They Deflate

The biggest question my daughter had while doing this activity was why do the birds spin instead of going straight up and down.  In order for the bird to fly in a straight line, the air rushing out of the balloon would have to create a force exactly in the center of the balloon.  But because the neck of the balloon is flexible, it wobbles with the force of the releasing air.  Thus the force is never quite in the middle, causing it to rotate.  I’ve been told that if you put something with a bit of weight on the nose of the balloon, directly opposite of the neck, it will fly in a straight line. But that experiment is for another day :)

More Hands-On Fun with STEAM

Looking for some more STEAM inspiration that you can use right now? Instant gratification style? Check out STEAM Explorers!! The coolest creative experience for kids is here! It's a digital book of the month club filled with tons of fun stuff for the kids to do and learn. All engineer, teacher, and mom-approved. And most definitely KID APPROVED!⁣

What’s included?⁣

  • A monthly digital magazine with cool themes that are fun to read
  • Hands-on, exciting projects the kids will love.⁣
  • Science, tech, engineering, art, and math learning YOU’LL love.⁣
  • Delicious recipes the kids can make.⁣
  • Fun printables and games⁣

In February we're having fun with spy-themed STEAM! The kids will love building a super-secret highlighter flashlight, making I Spy art, leaving their mark on sweet treats, and using science to catch a spy. You’ll love the helpful standards-based learning, printables, and tools that make STEAM exploration easy! 

We’ve split the issue into four weekly themes:

  • This issue has four weekly themes to inspire your kiddos:

Giving Kids the Power to Create

STEAM Power Yellow

This post is kicking off a 5 week series with some of my favorite bloggers who all love STEAM. Because learning with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math gives kids the power to do almost anything they can dream up.  Like flying like a bird… Or a rocket or an airplane.  This week is all about ways to make things Fly.

Dancing Balloons  //  Babble Dabble Do

Indoor Boomerang  //  What Do We Do All Day

Square Plane  //  All For the Boys

DIY Soda Rockets  //  Lemon Lime Adventures

M&M’s Tube Rockets  //  Frugal Fun for Boys

Flying Tea Bag Hot Air Balloon  // TinkerLab

Make Your Own Zip Line  //  Meri Cherry

And be sure to follow along for the next four weeks while we React, Harness, Compute and Grow, all with the power of STEAM.

23 thoughts on “Whirly Twirly Flying Birds”

  1. Pingback: Kids Science: Flying Tea Bag Hot Air Balloon - TinkerLab

  2. Pingback: STEAM Activity: Dancing Balloons - Babble Dabble Do

  3. Pingback: Square Plane – Learn to Make Modifications

  4. Looks very fun, I know my kids would love it when i get around to buying the right size balloon! A fun companion show would be Nat. Geog Kids’ Amazing Animals episodes about pigeons, which we happened to watch the other day. Bada$$ flying machines!

    1. leftbraincraftbrain

      Thanks for the add-on idea! My daughter is so curious about pigeons, it would be perfect.

  5. Pingback: Spring STEAM Activities for Preschoolers - Left Brain Craft Brain

  6. Pingback: Engineering Kids | Rube Goldberg Machine - TinkerLab

  7. Pingback: Color Changing Chemistry Clock - Left Brain Craft Brain

  8. Pingback: 10 Ways to Play and Learn with Springs - Left Brain Craft Brain

  9. This looks like your daughter had so much fun Anne! Love the video – we’re doing this for sure this Spring. I’ve included this in my spring birds roundup this week good timing! (P.S. Is that an orange tree in your backyard? How cool is that!)

  10. Pingback: If Then Backyard Coding Game for Kids - Left Brain Craft Brain

  11. Pingback: Spring Birds Activities for Kids - One Time ThroughOne Time Through

  12. Pingback: " משעמם לי" … – כמה רעיונות פשוטים ליצירה ופעילות לילדים | הזמנה ליצירה

  13. Pingback: The Biology of Yogurt - Left Brain Craft Brain

  14. Pingback: Inventors of Tomorrow: Wind Experiments | More Good Days - Parenting Blog

  15. Pingback: Wind and Flight | Inventors of Tomorrow

  16. Pingback: Fabulous Bird Crafts & Activities for Kids -

  17. Pingback: 25+ Bird Activities for Preschoolers - Natural Beach Living

  18. Pingback: 30+ Simple and Fun Preschool Science Activities - Preschool Inspirations

  19. Pingback: Egg Drop Challenge - Left Brain Craft Brain

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top