A parachute and a few balls provide a whole wealth of fantastic learning experiences across the whole curriculum!
In 12 years of teaching, I’ve tried literally hundreds of parachute ball games, and in this post, I’m going to whittle them down to the ultimate 19.
The best 19 parachute ball games are:
- Catapult Tennis
- Cooperation Roll
- Roll A Ball Off The Other Side
- Popcorn Teams
- Rolling A Ball Onto A Number
- Bull’s Eye
- Roll To A Friend
- Number Dive
- Word Dive
- Number Bonds
- Bounce Count
- Bounce Count, Counting In Different Numbers
- Lift Off!
- Ball Story
- What Shall We Do With The Little Ball?
These games are great for a range of ages, and can help develop skills in cooperation, teamwork, number, literacy, physical development, and so much more!
This is a fantastic game for pretty much any age (young and older alike!). It really supports teamwork and a sense of fun.
Everyone stands holding the parachute, with one ball placed on it.
Have some kind of large target in the room. It could be a square marked out with cones, for example.
Together, go, ‘1, 2, 3, go!’
Try to launch the ball at the target. You could play all sorts of games, such as:
- Having 5 shots
- Play two teams against each other, one shot each
- See how far away you can score from
2. Catapult Tennis
This is a fun extension of the above catapult game. You need two parachutes for this and one ball.
Have two teams each holding a parachute, one with a ball to start with. The simple aim is to try to launch the ball from one parachute to the other and back again, over and over again (like a tennis match!).
The teams are essentially cooperating together (not competing with each other).
3. Cooperation Roll
Here’s another simple game of cooperation that’s ideal for younger kids.
Everyone holds the parachute and starts with the ball placed on the chute. The idea is to then work as a team to roll the ball around the edge of chute without it falling off.
Work together to do several rotations of the chute – another great cooperation game!
4. Roll A Ball Off The Other Side
This is the competitive version of cooperation roll above.
Everyone holds the parachute, and split them all into two teams – everyone on one side of the chute in one team, and everyone on the other side is against them.
Place a ball in the middles of the parachute and ‘Go!’
The aim is to roll or bounce the ball off the parachute over the other team’s side.
So, if you’re on the left, you’re trying to get the ball to roll or bounce off the chute on the right.
Keep score, with one point for every time your team gets the ball off the chute. You could do first to a number (like ‘5’), or just play for a pre-agreed amount of time – like 3 minutes – and the person with the highest score at the end is the winner.
This is a really well-known game. I usually use smaller sponge balls for this (so as not to get any injuries!).
Everyone stands around the chute, holding it at about waist height. Place lots of small sponge balls onto the parachute.
Now the idea is to all work together to bounce them all off!
Some will fly off with the first bounce, but others will take longer.
Keep bouncing till they’re off.
6. Popcorn Teams
You split everyone into two teams for this. One team holds the parachute, again that has lots of small sponge balls on it.
The other team will all stand in a space around the parachute team, circling around them.
The parachute team is going to try to bounce all the balls off the parachute! The other team will retrieve the balls and place them rapidly back on the chute.
This process continues until either:
- All the balls are off the parachute
- You reach the end of an agreed time period
Then it’s time for the teams to swap over and take on the other role.
7. Rolling A Ball Onto A Number
This is another good one for kids between the ages of abut 3 to 7.
Have some number cards or rubber spots with numbers on, and place them around the parachute.
Have one large ball for this game. Shout a number, and the kids holding the chute will try to roll the ball onto that number! Another good game for cooperation (as well as number recognition as well).
You can mix this up or make it harder by:
- The answer is one more or one less (e.g. one less than 7)
- The answer is an addition or subtraction question (e.g. what is 4 + 3)
- The question is a word problem – (such as Charlie has 7 sweets and 3 get eaten. How many are left?)
This is a fun game of cooperation and sensory excitement.
You need lots of small sponge balls for this game as well. It’s a simple concept! You all throw the balls high into the air as possible, and then all stop moving. The balls will cascade down over you all (like rain).
9. Bull’s Eye
This only works if you have one of those big parachutes with a hole in the middle. If you don’t then move on!
All you need apart from that is one ball that will fit into the hole.
Work as a team to roll the ball so it goes down the hole.
You could have several balls and try to get them all down the hole in a time limit.
10. Roll To A Friend
This game is a simple icebreaker for all ages.
Have one ball on the parachute, with everyone holding the chute at about waist height.
One person starts with the ball. They say someone’s name, and then everyone cooperates to get that ball to roll to them. That person says, ‘Thank you!’
Then they pick the next person, and the game continues.
This is a good game for teaching simple manners and saying ‘thank you.’
11. Number Dive
For this game you need some balls that you are going to write numbers on. Only do this if you don’t mind having balls that are permanently having numbers (or you could maybe put sticky notes on the balls for a more temporary version of the game).
Place the balls on the floor underneath the parachute.
Select one player to go first. Everyone else goes, ‘1, 2, 3, Lift!’ They lift the parachute up so that it mushrooms up into the air.
Someone will shout a number, e.g. ‘6!’
The player selected will dive under the parachute and pick up the ball with that number on it. They come back out and repeat the game again. The person getting the ball is the person that selects the next player and also shouts the number.
12. Word Dive
This game is just the same as number dive, but instead you have words written on the balls.
This is particularly good for learning sight words, or for learning new vocabulary. You could also do the same game with:
- Shapes on the balls
- Colors of balls
- Letter on the balls
13. Number Bonds
This is a good game for teaching about number bonds (as the name suggests!)
Have a certain number of balls on the parachute to start with. I normally start with 5 (but 10 is good if you’re learning about number bonds to ten).
Do one big bounce together of the chute, so that some of the balls bounce off and land on the floor. Together count how many balls are on the chute, and then try to calculate how many must have come off.
If three are on, for example, then two must have come off. Go and find the balls to confirm.
This game is a simple way of experiencing number bonds in action.
14. Bounce Count!
Here is a very simple counting game, great for rote counting.
Have everyone holding the chute at waist height, and have one large ball on the parachute.
Everyone bounces it up and says, ‘1!’
It comes down, and bounces back up with everyone saying, ‘2!’ Keep going, bouncing and counting as far as you can (within reason!)
15. Bounce Count, Counting in Different Numbers
This game is also good for counting in different kinds of sequences and starting at different numbers.
You can bounce and count in the following ways:
- Start from a number that is not one, and count upwards in 1s
- Count in 2s, 5s, 10s or 100s
- Count backward
16. Lift Off! (Count back from ten and then launch!)
This is another game that really works on the rote counting skill.
Everyone holds the chute at waist height, with one ball on it. Sing the countdown song! That goes like this:
Zoom zoom zoom!
We’re going to the moon!
Zoom zoom zoom!
We’ll be there very soon.
If you’re looking for the tune, then check it out on Youtube.
Then you’re all going to do a countdown together, before launching the ball into the air!
I usually start from 10, but you could start from 5 (for an easier experience), or start from 20 (to make it trickier).
Shake the parachute gently with each number, as you go, ’10…9…8…7, etc.’
Then when you get to ‘zero’, you are all going to lift the parachute up towards the ceiling. Say, ‘Lift off!’ and launch that ball high into the air.
17. Ball Story
This game combines cooperation with literacy and storytelling.
Have one ball on the parachute again. The idea is to make up a story about an adventure the ball goes on, and the players do the movements from the story with the chute.
For example, you might start, ‘One day the ball went bouncing down a hill.’
Everyone starts gently bouncing the ball up and down.
‘It landed on a pirate ship. The ship set sail out to sea, and the waves rolled gently.’
Everyone makes gentle waves with the parachute.
‘Suddenly there was a storm! The ball was getting bounced all over the place.’
Everyone makes the stormy waves!
‘Suddenly a winged horse flew down, took the ball, and flew away with it.’
Do the gentle beating of the wings with the chute.
This is a hilarious game for all ages!
A team of players gets underneath the parachute, with everyone in a crawling position. The parachute goes over their head so they can’t see out.
The players are now a turtle, with the parachute as its shell.
Have a ball that is placed somewhere around the space.
There will be one player that is not under the parachute. They are going to try to guide the ‘turtle’ towards the ball with verbal commands. They will say things like, ‘Go towards the window!’ ‘Go over to the left’.
When the ‘turtle’ makes contact with the ball, swap over the person who is directing the turtle. The position the ball somewhere in the space, come back and tell the turtle which way to go. Watch out for banging into walls!
19. What Shall We Do With The Little Ball?
This is a simple song.
Have one ball on the parachute. Sing the song, that goes to the tune of What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? Gently bounce the ball to the beat as you sing:
What shall we do with the little ball?
What shall we do with the little ball?
What shall we do with the little ball?
Early in the morning!
Then, for the next verses, you have lots of options, such as:
Bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce it! (Bounce the ball vigorously)
Rock and rock and rock and rock it! (Sway it from side to side)
Roll and roll and roll and roll it! (Roll it round)