Hot air balloons offer a thrilling way to ride through the sky and enjoy looking at the world from a new perspective. That’s why they are often sources of inspiration that motivate and uplift. However, going on an actual ride in a hot air balloon may not always be a realistic option, especially for younger children. So, how can you bring the magic of ballooning to kids? Learn how to make a hot air balloon at home.
Making a small hot air balloon at home can serve as a fun science project that teaches kids about scientific and mathematical properties—like how hot air balloons work—while also stimulating your child’s imagination and creativity. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A large, thin plastic bag (like one from a dry cleaner—make sure to close the hole at the top if you use this type of bag)
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic straws (straight, not bendy—cut the bendable part off if that’s all you have)
- Birthday candles
- Clear tape
- A lighter
- Plenty of space (indoors or outdoors)
- String (to make sure your balloon doesn’t blow away if you are outside
- Adult supervision
*Again, it’s important to only make a hot air balloon at home with adult supervision.*
- Step 1: Cut a 4” x 4” square of aluminum foil to use to make the basket of the balloon
- Step 2: Melt wax from the bottom of a candle using the lighter. The wax should form a pool on the center of the aluminum foil, about 1” from the corners
- Step 3: Stick the base of your candles in the wax before it hardens so the candles stand straight up on their own. Be gentle so you don’t tear the aluminum. You can always melt more wax if you need to
- Step 4: Form a wall with the aluminum foil by folding the edges inward (about ¼ to ½ inch). This will make sure the wax is contained while the candles burn and it doesn’t drip out
- Step 5: Determine how long your frame made of plastic straws will be by measuring the width of the opening in your bag. You can use trial and error, but the frame should fit snugly inside the opening
- Step 6: For the frame, fasten the straws into two pieces of identical length. Cut a small slit in the bottom of a straw and insert another straw into it, then tape them together. Repeat for the other half of the frame
- Step 7: Create an “X” with your straw pieces and tape them together like that
- Step 8: Place your straw “X” frame inside the opening of the bag. Make sure it fits tightly, then secure it in place with tape
- Step 9: Tape the aluminum basket onto the straw frame so the candles point up into the bag (the balloon envelope). Make sure the candles aren’t directly above the straws
- Step 10: Tie a string to your basket if you will be flying the balloon in an area where it can rise beyond your reach
- Step 11: Take your balloon to a large, open room. You can also try to fly it outside, but it is often too windy
- Step 12: Have one person hold the top of the bag (balloon) up and then have an adult light the candles in the basket. Continue holding the bag until it fills with warm air and stands on its own
- Step 13: Liftoff! After a few minutes, the balloon will lift itself off the ground
For younger children, you can go even simpler and teach them how to make a tissue paper hot air balloon. But don’t worry! This method still involves the balloon taking flight—this time using a hairdryer instead of candles.
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The Museum also offers educational programs for children and adults—like S.T.E.A.M. Nights at the Balloon Museum—that offer science presentations and activities. You can also find out more about the Fiesta and how you can support our efforts by becoming a member, donating, volunteering, or purchasing a wall tile today!