Cardboard Airplane

What You Need:

  • Computer with internet access
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Empty cereal boxes or other lightweight cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Hot glue
  • Aluminum foil (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Airplanes are amazingly varied. Give your child some idea of the range of aircraft that have been built by doing a Google image search on “vintage aircraft.” As you look at the photos, note the position of the wings. For a given place they might be at the top or bottom of the body, near the middle, or even at the front of the aircraft. There are often struts to hold the wings in place. Also look at the shapes of the airplane’s tails. Once you have a feel for the shapes that go into making an aircraft, it's time to get started.
  2. How is the body of his plane going to be shaped? For some planes, your child may need to slightly flatten the toilet paper tube.
  3. Help your child cut a set of wings out of the lightweight cardboard. How many sets will he need? He might need two if he's making a biplane. 
  4. Where are the wings positioned on the plane? For some planes, the body of the aircraft sits on top of the wings. For others, the wings are on top of the body. A biplane has wings both above and below. Use tape or glue to attach the wings to the body of the plane.
  5. Next make a tail. Note that the tail on an airplane is actually two pieces. One is vertical and perpendicular to the wings. The other is horizontal and parallel to the wings. Cut the tail pieces from the cardboard and notch them so that they fit together. 
  6. Now attach the tail to the aircraft. Does it sit on top? Or do you need to notch the back of the body to fit the tail into place?
  7. Take a look at the plane. If you have wobbly wings or a tilted tail, cut several small strips of cardboard. These are going to be your struts that hold the wings and tail level. Tape them into place as needed.
  8. Is your plane a jet?  If so, you’re done. If not, use a piece of aluminum foil to make a propeller and glue it into place.

Make a variety of planes and set up a home museum featuring aviation throughout the ages.

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