As the weather warms up, families everywhere are eager to head outside for some adventure. If you’re looking for a new activity that’s fun, reasonably inexpensive, and can teach your kids skills like persistence and focus, try kite flying!
The American Kitefliers Association (AKA) recommends all kite enthusiasts follow the six steps below for a successful day of fun outside. We’ve broken down these components so that you can begin your kite flying journey as a family this spring. This fun pamphlet also highlights the essential tips, so your kids can get excited about the adventure, too. Before you begin, check out this glossary for common kite-related terms. Then, off you go!
“Pick the right day, time, and wind” is the first step from the AKA. Most kites are made to fly with a light, steady wind, so aim for a day when the breeze is predictable. It’s best to avoid early morning and evening since winds during sunrise/sunset can be unpredictable. The Beaufort Scale is a useful chart that details the link between common observations (like leaves twirling on the ground) and wind speed. You can use this chart to estimate what “force” number the wind is around you. For optimal conditions, the AKA recommends flying during gentle and moderate breezes (Force 3 or 4).
Even before you choose the right time to fly, take your family and scope out some location options for your adventure—that way, you’ll be ready when the time is right! Open, flat areas are the best because you’re more likely to get a steady wind without turbulence from buildings or trees. There’s also plenty of room to run and let out your line without getting tangled up in branches. Look for fields, beaches, even parking lots; just make sure you aren’t close to any power lines.
There are many varieties of kites, but the basic distinction is whether the kite has a single line that controls it or multiple lines and what shape the fabric of the kite takes. The single-line kite is the most common and best for beginners. Using only one string that connects your handle to the kite (where it may branch off into a couple of attachment points), the fabric shape can be almost anything, but the most popular kinds are diamond, delta, and sled. Flat kites like the diamond are easy to make at home with your kids or inexpensive to buy premade.
While your kite is the most important item to bring on this adventure, having a few other things will make the outing more enjoyable. The AKA recommends bringing food, water, and a first aid kit, plus comfort items like folding chairs, blankets, and umbrellas. Make sure to pack a few toys that your kids can use if you have to wait for the wind conditions to improve—frisbees, balls, and even bubbles are great options! Gloves (to protect your hand holding the string) and a hat are helpful for the actual kite-flying, scissors and tape for last-minute repairs, and a camera is a must to capture the experience!
Like many other sports and hobbies, becoming an expert kite-flyer requires lots of practice. For an extensive instructional resource, refer to the AKA’s guide here. A few basic procedures will help get your kite adventure off the ground. Begin with a single-line kite and stand with your back to the wind while you let out the line. If the wind is too light, have a helper hold the kite downwind, and then let it go while you take a step backward—you have liftoff! Adjust the bridle (where the string attaches to the kite) up for higher winds and down for lighter winds or add/remove tails until you reach a steady state. When your kite is stable, let out more line and watch it fly. To land a kite, slowly reel in the line. If the wind is very strong, reeling in may strain and break your kite. Instead, have one person hold the handle while another slowly walks along the line using a gloved hand or piece of bent wire to bring the string down closer to the ground.
Even the most well-prepared kite fliers have bad days. The wind is wrong, your line breaks or too many other people are around. Make family kite-flying a time to remind your kids that adapting to changing conditions is an essential skill to learn, and then model this practice. Some problems during flight can be fixed in the moment, while others will need more time at home. Being flexible and adapting quickly are key traits for an expert kite flyer!
Armed with this basic knowledge, you’re ready to head outside and let the wind be your guide!