Having tried hundreds of PE activities over more than 12 years working in education, some of the favorites that I return to again and again are parachute games!
Having just a single parachute, and a small handful of accompanying resources can result in a wonderful array of Phys Ed games for all ages.
Parachute games provide multiple benefits, including developing:
- Cooperation (Source)
- Physical development
- Math and literacy skills
- And so much more!
In this post, I’ll outline my all-time favorite 17 parachute games for PE.
1. Coconut Shy!
Split the kids into two groups for this.
One of the groups will hold a large parachute at waist height.
The other team will stand a few yards away from this the parachute, in a line, and all holding sponge balls.
The idea is that the first person in the queue will throw their ball and try to land it in the parachute. After you throw, collect another sponge ball from a bag or box, and then go to the back of the line.
Then the next person goes!
Keep going until you’ve got lots of balls in the chute, or until a certain number of throws each is up. Then swap teams.
2. Coconut Shy Time Limit
This is a variation on the coconut shy game above.
The main difference is that this is the competitive version. The first team has 2 minutes (or a different time of your choosing) to get as many balls into the parachute as possible.
Count them up, and then the two teams swap places.
The team with the most balls at the end in the chute is the winner!
This is a great way to end a session, as a kind of relaxed team-building activity.
The idea is that everyone starts by standing around the parachute, and holding it at about waist height.
Then everyone will say, ‘1, 2, 3, Lift!’
Everyone lifts the parachute up above their heads, and they keep hold of it as they all go towards each other a couple of steps and crouch down. If you do it right, the parachute will ‘mushroom’ around everyone, completely covering them in a mushroom shape!
This is a similar concept to ‘mushroom’, but just a different end goal.
Everyone stands around in a circle, holding onto the parachute again.
Everyone will say, ‘1, 2, 3, Lift!’
This time, everyone lifts the parachute up rapidly above their heads, and then they let go!
If you all let go at the same time, then the parachute will soar upwards high into the air. If you do it indoors, it should be able to hit the ceiling.
Watch out when it comes back down!
The tricky thing in this game is for the kids to all let go at the same time!
This is a fantastic cooperation game involving just a parachute and no other resources (like many of these games).
In this game, everyone apart from one child is going to crouch down together, and the parachute is placed over them. This is the turtle with its shell.
The idea now is that the ‘turtle’ is going to slowly walk around the space.
I like to play this game as a challenge. The child that is not inside the turtle is going to place an object (such as a rubber spot) somewhere in the space. The challenge, then, is for the child to direct the turtle to walk towards the place where the object is and go over it.
Then get the child to swap with a child inside the turtle, and repeat the process.
The child doing the directing will be saying things like, ‘Forward, forward, to the side – another way!’ and things like that.
6. Bounce Count!
You can do this in one of three ways – easy, medium, or slightly harder!
The easy way is just a simple fun counting game and is particularly good for younger children.
You put a ball on the parachute that you are all holding. Count as you bounce the ball into the air – 1, 2, 3… Say a number every time it goes back into the air.
The ‘medium’ version is a great math activity. Instead of counting in 1s, this time you count in a different number. So you might count in 2s, 5s, or 10s as you bounce the ball.
The slightly more complex version is the one I use the most!
Split the children into two teams. One team will hold the parachute with the ball on it.
The other team will have a challenge. It might be to run as a relay from one side of the room to the other. So one child goes first, then the next, and so on until everyone has completed it.
The idea is that the team bouncing the ball will count as this goes on, and keep on counting until the activity comes to an end.
Then the two teams will swap and try to do the activity quicker than the previous team.
Some other good activities to try while the bouncing is happening are:
- Do twenty star-jumps
- Balance along a bench one at a time
- Do a certain number of skips with a jump rope
This is a really simple game.
Have one big sponge ball on the parachute, and everyone in a circle holding the chute.
Go, ‘1, 2, 3!’ And all try to bounce the ball as high into the air as possible!
8. Catapult Target!
This is the trickier version of ‘Catapult’ above.
Have everyone around the chute again, with a ball in the middle. You also need a big target quite close to the parachute. This could be a big sheet on the floor (or something similar).
Go, ‘1, 2, 3, Throw!’ And throw the ball into the air, trying to land it on the target! If you didn’t hit it the first go, get the children to talk about a strategy to hit it the second time. This process is great for problem-solving and critical thinking.
9. Team Tennis
You need two parachutes for this game and one ball.
This is not easy! (Just a warning)
The two teams stand side-by-side, each holding the two respective parachutes. You want to have at least a yard between the two teams for safety.
The idea is that one team is going to try to throw the ball to the other team, and try to land it in the parachute.
The other team will try to catch it, and throw it back! Once again, I recommend using the ‘1, 2, 3, Throw!’ throwing drill.
10. Fruit Salad
This is a great game of cooperation and team building.
Everyone stands holding the parachute. The adult points to each child in turn and gives them a fruit name. I normally pick four different fruits – eg. Strawberry, banana, apple, and pear.
So, go round the circle, pointing and labeling each child – ‘Strawberry, apple, banana, pear, strawberry, apple, banana, pear, strawberry…etc’
I find the tricky part is everyone remembering what their fruit is!
Then get everyone to go, ‘1, 2, 3, Lift!’
Everyone lifts up the parachute so that it mushrooms up high into the air.
The adult shouts one of the fruit names, for example, ‘Pear!’
All the pears run under the parachute, and go to a space that has been vacated by another ‘pear.’ Then repeat the process, lifting the chute, and swapping places with others that share the same fruit with you.
11. Parachute Switch
This is a good game to try if you find the kids are not great at remembering their fruit names in ‘Fruit Salad.’
In this game, everyone stands around the parachute. They all lift together, so the parachute mushrooms up.
The adult shouts the names of two children, e.g. Rosie and Luca.
Those two children run under the chute and swap places.
Repeat this process with different kids until everyone has had a go.
12. Popcorn Teams
‘Popcorn’ is one of the most well-known parachute games, and this is a really good variation of it.
Split the kids into two teams. One team will be holing the parachute, and the other team will be standing spaced out in the area around the parachute team.
Have lots of small light balls for this game. Something like ball pool balls, or small sponge balls are good.
The idea of this is the team holding the parachute will vigorously start shaking the chute and trying to bounce all the balls off.
The other team will be running around all over the place, picking them up, and getting them back onto the chute!
I normally play with a time limit. Keep going for about two minutes, and then the teams swap roles.
You could play until one team manages to bounce every single ball off. Then swap.
13. Shark Attack!
In this game, one person is going to be the ‘shark’. They go underneath the parachute.
Everyone else is going to hold the chute at about waist height!
They are going to gently shake the parachute up and down, mimicking the waves on the sea.
The ‘shark’ will now move around under the parachute. They are going to do a ‘shark attack’ by touching someone on the foot! It should be a gentle tap – no Jaws-style mega-attacks, please!
Whenever you feel a tap, you become the new shark, and the old one comes out and takes their place.
You need a box of some sort with different objects for this game. In an ideal world, you might have some kind of treasure chest!
But any suitcase, bag, or another container would be fine.
Have at least 5 random objects that are all different in the box. You might have 5 different fruits, for example.
Everyone stands holding the parachute, with the box with objects underneath it.
Everyone goes, ‘1, 2, 3, Lift!’ and they lift the parachute high in the air.
The adult shouts the name of one child and also an object for them to retrieve. This child is now the diver. They ‘dive’ under the chute, grab the object, and bring it back out.
Repeat the game for other objects.
I normally link this game to a topic or theme that you are covering at that time. So, if you’re learning about vehicles, have 5 toy vehicles in the box.
15. Roll Ball
This is a simple game of cooperation.
Everyone holds the parachute, and someone places one large ball on it.
The idea is that you are going to work as a team to roll the ball around the very edge of the parachute in a circle, but without letting it fall off.
This involves lots of communication and thinking skills.
16. Roll Ball Competition
This is the competitive version of the ‘Roll Ball’ game above.
Everyone stands around the parachute again. Split the kids into two teams, by drawing an imaginary line down one side of the parachute.
Now place a large sponge ball on the chute.
The idea is that one side is going to try to bounce the ball off over the other team’s side, and vice versa.
This is a game of rolling, and bouncing!
If you get the ball off over the other team’s side, then you win one point!
I normally play the first to five points is the winning team.
17. Pirate Pull
This is another game of cooperation and working as a team.
Everyone stands holding the parachute except one person. That person is going to be in charge of calling instructions.
This is a bit like a rowing game, only using a parachute.
Separate the kids slightly, so they are in two teams, one on either side of the parachute. One side is team 1, and the other is team 2.
The idea is that the caller shouts out which team should pull backwards on the chute. They shout, ‘1’ and that team pulls backwards, with the others pushing forwards.
Then, ‘2’, and the other team pulls.
What you get is a coordinated see-sawing backwards and forwards.
This is not a tug-o-war! This is working together, pulling the ‘oars’ back and forwards in a coordinated way.