I have been using parachute games with children aged 3-5 over the last ten years. I have tried literally hundreds of games – some have not been so great. But amongst the hundreds have been some hidden gems!
I am listing the forty best ones here!
I have done the hard yards for you, and you can get cracking with some high-quality games from the word go.
And in case you’re wondering why you might want to bother with parachute games, here are a few reasons:
- They’re simple – you just need a parachute and maybe a couple of other simple resources
- They are brilliant at team-building
- They develop skills across the whole curriculum
- They develop fine and gross motor skills
- They are excellent at developing cooperation
- They are one of the best ways of developing listening and attention
- Research suggests they are an excellent source of health in young children (Source)
So, let’s get cracking on the best forty parachute games ever invented. I have roughly split them up into Math, Literacy, Cooperation, Physical and Music. Let’s go…
Math Parachute Games
1.Number Bond Bounce
All you need for this is something like 5 beanbags. Alternatively, use sponge balls.
I would start with five beanbags on the parachute for number bonds to five. If you want to do number bonds to ten then use ten bean-bags.
You simply all bounce the beanbags up and down for a few seconds. Hopefully a few will fly off the parachute.
Then stop and all count how many beanbags are left on the parachute. If there are three on the parachute, for example, ask the children how many are on the floor? Then go and find out.
Put the beanbags back on and repeat. If you do this a few times over a couple of sessions, some children will start to know straight away that 1 goes with 4, and 2 goes with 3 etc.
2. Number Clock
Have some number cards. With the parachute on the floor, place the numbers around it so they look at bit like a clock (they do not have to be in order, but just in a clock-face shape if this makes sense!) It will look a bit like this…
Everyone stands up, holding the parachute. Put some music on – any song will work. The children walk round the outside of the parachute, so the parachute is rotating with them.
Stop the music, and the children freeze. Whatever number they are standing next to, they say that number. It’s as simple as that!
This is a great game for number recognition. To find out the best 16 games to teach how to recognize numbers then take a look at this article.
Top tip – Repeat the game, but get them to say the numbers in different voices, for example like a T-Rex, a witch, or an alien.
3. 5 Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed
Ideally if you do this you need something to be the 5 little monkeys. It could be monkey puppets or toys, or you could just use something like beanbags to represent them.
Throw one at a time of whatever it is onto the parachute, and count them -1,2,3.. as you go. Then bounce them to the beat of the music as you sing:
5 Cheeky monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped its head
Mum phoned the doctor and the doctor said,
‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed!’
Take one off and count how many you have got.
Repeat the song, taking one off each time. Great for learning the language of ‘one less’, and beginning to calculate in simple ways.
Top tip – There are loads of other counting songs you could do the same thing to. Examples would be 5 Little Ducks, and 5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer
4. Bounce Count
This is a really simple concept.
You just get something like a large rubber ball, a beachball, or a beanbag. Bounce it high into the air and say ‘one’. Then when it lands, bounce it again and say ‘two’.
Keep counting! Great for 1:1 counting and practising rote counting as well. To find out my favorite 17 games to teach rote counting, then take a look at this.
Top tip – Always try to count past ten (because some children think the numbers stop at ten)
This is a big favorite from my book 101 Circle Time Games…That Actually Work!
This book contains all the very best parachute circle time games, along with math circle games, literacy circle games, emotion and mindfulness circle games, active circle games, and so much more! You can check out the book here.
5. Zoom Zoom Zoom
This is my favorite counting backwards game.
Everyone stands around the parachute, holding it. You gently shake the parachute to the music as you sing:
Zoom zoom zoom
We’re going to the moon!
Zoom zoom zoom
We’ll be there very soon!
Then shake the parachute for each number as you go ’10,9,8,7…2,1, Zero! Blast Off!’
On the blast off everyone lifts the parachute into the air at the same time and then lets go. If you all let go at the same time the chute will fly upwards into the air and stick to the ceiling! Great fun.
Top tip – You could count back from 5 for an easier experience, or from 20 to make it much trickier.
6. Number Dive
You need a few number cards for this game.
Everyone stands up and holds the parachute. Place the number cards under the parachute on the floor. Then pick someone to go first.
The idea is that you all then go ‘1,2,3, Lift!’ Everyone lifts the parachute so that it goes mushrooming up into the air.
Then shout a number. The child you have picked will quickly dive under the parachute, and get the number and bring it back out to safety. Then pick another child and repeat again.
7. Shape Dive
You’ve guessed it – this one is the same concept as number dive. All you need for this is some shapes instead. They could be 2D shapes or 3D, depending on what you are working on.
8. Roll The Number Cooperation
One more maths game – this is a fun cooperation game.
For this you require some number cards again, or something like rubber discs with numbers on. Put these on the parachute, ideally towards the outer edge and spaced out.
Then, with everyone holding the parachute, put a rubber ball onto it. Call out a number, e.g. ‘5’. The idea is that everyone cooperates to roll the ball onto that number. Then call another number, and everyone helps to steer the ball again by lifting or dropping their bit of the parachute.
If you want to find out even more about parachute games for early maths, then why not check out these 14 fantastic games.
Literacy Parachute Games
Segmenting is quite simply splitting words up into their sounds. For a full guide on what segmenting is, then first check out this.
The way to do that with a parachute is this: all stand up in a circle and hold the parachute. Say a word, e.g. ‘sit’. All shake the parachute for each sound and then wiggle to put the word back together again – ‘s-i-t. Sit!’
Top tip – Repeat each word a few times. Repetition is the most important thing for learning how to segment.
This is one of the ultimate parachute games.
Quite simply, the adult makes up a story. All the children bring the story to life with sound effects. For example, they shake the chute up and down when the stamping T-Rex appears. They make gentle waves for the sea. They wiggle when the snake slithers out of its cave.
Just make it up, and let them bring it to life! Great for listening, attention, and communication
Give every child a letter. You could write them on stickers and stick it on them, or they could wear bibs with the letters on. It is good to have at least two children have one sound each.
Then all say, ‘1,2,3, Lift’ and lift the chute. Shout a letter, e.g. ‘s’. Those two children wearing a ‘s’ will run under the parachute and switch places. Repeat with different sounds.
Top tip – try this one with high frequency words, or three letter words.
12. Who Am I?
This is a voice recognition game. Basically you get all children to stand around a parachute and close their eyes. Then the adult goes and taps one child on the shoulder.
Whoever has been tapped must go and hide under the parachute.
Then everyone opens their eyes, and the mystery child says ‘Who am I?’ Everyone tries to guess. This is good for listening out for the voices of your friends. It is also an excellent memory game.
Top tip – Make this one harder by getting them to put on a silly voice to disguise who they are.
There are many books that have repeated refrains in them – that is, a sentence that repeats over and over. These are great to chant with a parachute, and shake the words as you say them.
An example is Owl Babies, where the smallest owl always says ‘I want my mummy.’ (However, there are literally hundreds of books like this where the same sentence repeats over and over)
What you do is the adult reads the story, and the children shake the parachute and join in with the repeated refrain.
I hope you enjoyed these literacy ideas, and if you want to find out the full list of phonics parachute games then take a look at this.
All say ‘1,2,3, Lift!’ Lift the chute so that it mushrooms up into the air, and then call out two children’s names.
They must trade empty spots by running under the chute. Repeat with two different children.
Top tip – Be kind! Don’t bring the parachute down on top of others, and keep it held up even if they are a bit slow.
This game is an absolute old classic. You go around the children and tell them they are each one of four fruits, e.g. go round and say ‘apple, banana, pear, strawberry. Keep going with this order: apple, banana… until everyone is a fruit.
Then go ‘1,2,3, Lift!’ Shout a fruit name. Everyone that is that particular fruit will swap places.
If they can’t remember their fruit names (which is often the case with younger children), then do game 14 – the parachute switch game.
This one is an excellent teamwork game.
Count to three, and then lift the parachute high into the air. The idea is to all move forward after you’ve lifted, crouch down, and pull the parachute down around you. If it works well then everyone will be cocooned inside a ‘mushroom’. Good luck!
17. Roll Ball
Get a rubber ball or a sponge ball and put it onto the parachute. The idea is to roll it around the edge of the parachute.
When it is near you keep the chute raised so it doesn’t fall off. Lower it when it is going away from you.
18.Roll Ball Competition
This is the competitive version of the last game.
What you do for this is basically split the children up into two teams. Have a central line on the parachute. Everyone on one side is on one team, and they will be against the other side.
The idea is that one team is going to try to roll the ball of the far side of the parachute to them, but that team is going to try to stop them and roll it off the side farthest to them.
Whenever you manage to roll it off the other side you get one point.
The team with the most points at the end is the winner!
This one is really quite bizarre, but they really love it.
Get about ten pieces of strings, each about half a metre long. These are the ‘snakes’.
Throw them separately onto the parachute.
Then what you do is all gently jiggle the parachute up and down. The snakes will start moving around, and if any hit each other they stick together! Keep jiggling until all the snakes are stuck together in a big ball!
20.Cat And Mouse
This is a bit like tag with a parachute involved. The way I play it is the following:
Get one child to sit the in middle underneath the parachute. Everyone holds the chute above their heads.
The child in the middle is the cat. They close their eyes.
Pick one child to be the mouse. They sneak up on the cat, tap them on the shoulder then run back to where they had stood in the circle.
The idea is that they try to run once around the circle and back to their original spot. The cat is going to chase them! All the cat has to do is tag them on the back, and they are caught. If the mouse gets back in time, then it is safe.
Then pick another cat and mouse.
Top tip – be gentle if you are the cat! All that is needed is small tap on the back, nothing more.
Pick one child to be the ‘shark.’
The crawl under the parachute and move around underneath. Everyone else makes waves on the sea by gently shaking the chute up and down.
The idea is that the shark will tap someone on the shoe. When they feel a tap they are the new shark. That person goes under the parachute and swims around. Repeat until everyone has had a go.
Top Tip – Try to keep the shark attacks so that they are not too vicious! Just a tap on the shoe – no less no more.
If you have a treasure chest or old box for this then that is great.
Otherwise you could use something like a blanket on the floor.
Put some different objects in the chest/box/blanket.
Then pick one child to the diver first and go ‘1,2,3, Lift!’ Lift the parachute up and call out an object. The first diver dives under the parachute and lifts it to safety.
Repeat with different children.
If you want to check out a load more cooperation games, then why not take a look at 21 Preschool Circle Games That Actually Work!
23. Making Waves
They really love this one, although it is so simple.
The parachute is like the waves on the sea basically. You all help each other make the waves – vary it by doing small, medium and large waves.
The adult can add some kind of story to help this.
Play some music for this one. The children walk round in a circle holding the chute.
The freeze when the music stops.
You can get them to move in different ways. For example, they could skip, jump, hop, or dance their way around in a circle.
Top tip – Get them to do something when they stop – for example an animal noise.
This is a sitting parachute game.
Everyone sits round the chute and then one side pulls and the other side moves forwards. Then they pull and the other side goes forward.
You create a kind of sawing motion back and forward.
Top tip – This takes quite a lot of support and modelling from the adult to make it work. It is definitely do-able though and great for cooperation and physical development.
Everyone goes under the parachute. The chute is now a giant turtle shell. Everyone crawls under it moving the turtle about.
Go to one part of the space and call ‘This Way Turtle!’
Hopefully the turtle will start moving towards you.
Then move to another part of the space and get the turtle to go that way instead.
Top tip – Try to keep well away from walls to avoid any injuries!
Place lots of soft balls on the parachute. These are the popcorn. It is very simple this one! Basically you all bounce the popcorn up into the air, and keep going until it has all gone flying off the chute.
Top Tip – Have some children allocated before you start to be the ones that collect the ‘popcorn’. Otherwise you may find they all go scrabbling after it in a big mass.
29. Popcorn Chase
This is a variation of the popcorn game.
Have two teams for this one. One team are holding the parachute, and the other team is standing away from the chute ready to collect the balls.
The team holding the chute tries to bounce all the balls off, and the children collecting them try to get them all back on before all the ‘popcorn’ is off.
Do it a few times, then everyone swaps places, the retrievers coming the holders of the parachute.
You need something like a large sponge ball for this game.
Basically everyone crouches down and goes ‘1,2,3!’ On the ‘3’ everyone lifts the parachute quickly up into the air and tries to launch the ball as high as they can into the air.
31. Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush
All circle songs are great for using with a parachute, and this song is one good example. You rotate in a circle holding the parachute, whilst singing the rhyme.
Some good actions you can do with the parachute include:
Shake the sheets…etc (Shake the parachute)
This is the way we saw the wood…(Go back and forth)
This is the way we hammer nails…(Go up and down)
For all of these music games, if you want to find out the full lyrics and tunes you can use with a parachute then check out 14 Parachute Games For Preschoolers With Lyrics And Tips
This chant is great for bringing the actions in it to life with a parachute:
Roly poly, roly poly
Up up up (Lift the parachute up)
Roly poly, roly poly
Down down down (Parachute down)
Roly poly, roly poly
In in in (Go in)
Roly poly, roly poly
Out out out (Go back out)
33.Keeping The Beat
This is very simple, but research suggests this is one of the best skills young children can learn. (Source)
Either sing or put on a song, and then all try to join in whilst keeping the beat. This skill has a huge impact on later phonic development and learning to read.
34.If You’re Happy And You Know It
It just takes a little tinkering with the original lyrics of this song, and you have a fabulous parachute game. I go for these lyrics:
If you’re happy and you know it shake the chute (Shake, shake)
Some other great verses can be:
If you’re happy and you know it go up up up
….go down down down
…shake it slow
…shake it fast
…go round and round
35.Grand Old Duke Of York
This song is excellent because of all the going up and down.
Simply sing the song and follow the ups/downs with the parachute.
This song is brilliant for positional langauge. To find out what positional words are, and the best games to teach it, then take a look at this.
36.The Waves On The Sea
This is basically The Wheels On The Bus, but adapted! The words go:
The waves on the sea go up and down!
Some other ideas for lyrics are:
The waves on the sea go splish, splash, splosh
The waves on the sea are very small…
The waves on the sea are very big…
The storm on the sea goes crash, crash, crash…
37.Row Row Row Your Boat
I’m sure you all know this one!
Sit on the floor whilst you sing the song, all ‘rowing’ backwards and forwards. Other good verses include:
If you see a little mouse
Don’t forget to squeak! (Do lots of squeaking!)
If you see a crocodile
Don’t forget to scream! (Scream!)
If you see a lion
Don’t forget to roar! (Roar!)
38.5 Little Ducks
Have 5 toy ducks and put them on the parachute, which is now the gentle rippling river. Ripple the parachute as you sing the song ‘5 Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day.’
After you sing each time, take one duck off and count how many you have left!
39.Shake The Teddy
This one goes to the music of ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?’
Put a teddy or puppet on the chute and sing:
What shall we do with the little teddy?…
Some other lyrics are:
Bounce and bounce and bounce the teddy…
Up and down and up and down…
Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle the teddy…
40. Everybody’s Sleeping
What a lovely way to finish off. Everyone lies down and ‘goes to sleep’ under the parachute.
There’s a little song that you whisper quietly:
Everybody’s sleeping, Sh! Sh! Sh!
Nighty nighty, sh! Sh! Sh!
Perfect as a warm down.
101 Circle Time Games…That Actually Work!
Many of the games above are featured in my book 101 Circle Time Games..That Actually Work! This book contains:
-Math circle time games
-Literacy and phonics circle games
-Active and physical circle games
-Emotion and mindfulness circle time games
-And so much more!
Phew! There you go – ten years of trial and error condensed into ten minutes of reading. I hope you find as much excitement, fun and learning through these parachute games as I have done!
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