Are you ready to go over the basics?
- What size parachute do you use?: I have three different parachutes at the library. Two fit in our smaller programming room (parachutes size 10 feet and size 12 feet). This works for classes of 20 kids or smaller. Our large parachute fits our large programming room (parachute size 24 feet). I’ve used this parachute in classes with 70 kids before.
- How do you take the parachute out and put the parachute away?: In our large music & movement program, I ask the kids to find their grown-ups and stay with them while I pass out the parachute. For classes when I’m the only grown-up in the room, I have the kids touch the wall until I finish setting up the parachute. This ensures no one slips on the parachute and that I can safely lay it out without accidentally wrapping someone up inside of it. It also works for cleaning it up!
- How do you store the parachute?: Our parachutes came with storage bags. I’ve also seen parachutes simply folded up on a shelf. As for the accessories, I use fabric storage bins that are kept next to the parachute to hold those.
- Where do you get a parachute?: All of ours came from S&S Worldwide 12 foot, 24 foot. (I don’t see the 10′ any longer.)
- Has your parachute held up over the years?: Not a rip on any of them. And there’s been some VERY enthusiastic shakers using our parachute in storytime.
Great! We’ve got the basics covered and now it’s time to dive into how I use a parachute in storytime.
The parachute is a great opportunity to practice opposites: fast/slow, high/low, up/down, left/right, front/back, over/under, in/out. I will often do these with modified songs: “If you’re happy and you know it, shake it fast” followed by “If you’re happy and you know it, shake it slow”. In particular, the parachute in storytime is perfect for up/down and these are some of my favorite up/down songs: “The Elevator Song”, “The Noble Duke of York”, and “Roly, Poly”.
And if you want to try a different version of “The Noble Duke of York” to de-centralize the conqueror/colonizer narrative, you can use this one I wrote:
The great big teddy bear,
Bear has thousand friends,
Bear marched them up to the top of hill
And marched them down again
And when you’re up, you’re up
And when you’re down, you’re down
And when you’re only halfway up,
You’re neither up nor down
This is a fantastic way to practice body identification and get kids giggling. I start by sitting everyone on the outside of the parachute and call out “cover your toes”. Everyone races to cover their toes with the parachute. This game can be very simple for little ones, or you can use it for older kids by choosing more technical terms like the names of bones or muscles.
How many of you remember doing the mushroom under the parachute as a child in gym class? If you don’t remember, here’s an example of the mushroom in a gym class on YouTube (fast-forward to the 1:15 mark to see the mushroom in action). This is the kind of basic movement I’m talking about. One of my favorite things to do is teamwork activities, like pretending the parachute is the wheel of the school bus and “turning” it as we walk around together.
Putting Things on the Parachute in Storytime
I love tossing things on to the parachute. I use recycled paper crumpled up as “popcorn” pieces, the kids then shake the chute until the popcorn pops off. I love buying foam shapes from craft stores and tossing those on the parachute in storytime; this works especially well with weather-related shapes like leaves and snowflakes. I’ve also purchased stuffed monkeys to do “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, soft fabric balls, and foam ABC letters.
Because of how loud the parachute can get, I love using recorded music to ensure that everyone can hear. Some of my favorite songs to use are:
Lifting Up & Down
– Take the Sun by Caspar Babypants
– Under a Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner
– My Ups and Downs by Jim Gill
– Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles (from my pop music edition of Shake, Shimmy, & Dance)
– Fast and Slow by Laurie Berkner
– The Shimmie Shake by The Wiggles
– No More Monkeys by Asheba / Putumayo Kids
– I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons (from my pop music edition of Shake, Shimmy, & Dance)
– Falling by Joanie Leeds (foam leaves)
– Popcorn by Laura Doherty, Popcorn by Mr. Jon & Friends, Hot Poppin’ Popcorn by The Wiggles, Popcorn by Joanie Leeds (recycled paper popcorn)
– Rolling Ball by The Learning Groove (soft fabric balls)
– All You Need is Love by Caspar Babypants (foam hearts)
– Wheels in the City by Laura Doherty
– Round in a Circle by Greg & Steve
– Ring Around the Rosie by Caspar Babypants
I hope this post served as a springboard for ideas of using a parachute in storytime. If you have any other tricks, tips, or favorite activities, please leave them in the comments. I’ll be back next time talking about using instruments in storytime!
– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: III. Programming Skills.