Parachute & Play Canopy Games

A parachute is a useful way of involving a large group of children in an activity and because of its novelty even those who would normally opt out, tend to get involved. Between 20 and 50 children can be directly involved around the perimeter of a 15 foot (4.5 m) parachute. The majority of games are co-operative rather than competitive and so good for generating a group spirit and togetherness.

Where can I get one?

If you don't have a parachute they are a resource well worth investing in and for the use you can get out of it, relatively cheap.

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A parachute is best stored by taking hold of the centre in one hand, twisting the canopy loosely into a rope, rolling it up and stuffing it into a sack - the thin nylon sack sold for the storage of sleeping bags are idea.


Getting Started

Drop the parachute from the bag and instruct everyone to take hold of an edge with both hands. Once everyone is hanging on, move them around the perimeter until they are evenly spaced out. Holding the canopy with knuckles on top works best.. Get everyone to hold the parachute taut and still at waist level. Get everyone moving together by raising the parachute and allowing it to fall. Don't pull it down but allow it to fall naturally so that it billows tip. This is best done to a steady count. On the third lift try to get the canopy as high as possible so that it billows tip. The development of this is to take one or more steps in towards the middle still holding the parachute creating a mushroom shape. As the parachute collapses, move back out. Practice this basic co-ordination until everyone is happy.

CAUTION: You will sometimes see games described which involve putting one or more children (or adults) on to a parachute that is held off the ground. You should particularly avoid anything which involves using the parachute rather like a trampoline with the margin held taut and somebody bounced in the middle. The problem is that the player does not know where the ground is and it is all too easy for him to be bounced on hard ground as the parachute is slackened with consequent injury to spine or head. Games that involve walking on a tight parachute should also be avoided as it is possible to damage an ankle by a sudden unexpected contact with the ground even though the drop is 10 cm or less.


A number of games which can be used with the play canopy are listed below. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list and almost any 'circle' game can be adapted. However, these work well...


Number the children around the circle, say one to six. Lift the chute and on the third go shout a number, these children then have to swap places under the canopy before it fa] Is to earth. They need to be told to head for gaps, keep their eyes open and try to avoid bumping into one another. Make sure that the those who remain around the edge allow the canopy to fall rather than pulling it down hard.


Simply passing the chute round in a circle rather like hauling in a rope. This can be quite a feat for small hands, watch out for friction bums, (apologies for the pun!) too


Place a light-weight football on the chute surface and experiment with moving it. What happens when you shake the parachute, can you flip the ball off over people's head? Can you develop a wave technique that will cause the ball to move in a circle? Using a small ball (tennis ball) can you drop the ball through the hole in the middle, can you stop the ball disappearing? These demand fairly sophisticated co-ordination skills, but in short spells can be fun.


One volunteer on top, one beneath, with the idea of the top one catching the other, a bit like cat and mouse only in a different dimension. This can be surprisingly difficult.


After lofting the chute several times everyone steps inside, bringing the fabric taut behind their body, either to shoulder height or to ground level with each person sitting on the edge of the chute, thus creating a sort of tent with everybody tinder the canopy. Once practised this is a useful technique for getting everybody's attention, storytelling, instruction giving etc.


Simply an adaptation of any circle game, fishes in the sea, 1 sent a letter etc. using the chute to maintain the circle form. These sort of games consist of one or more people racing around the circle and back to their space, or any free space.3


(It could be worse!) Using the parachute as an aid to story- telling. You have the attention of all because they are holding, the Chute, commence the story using the parachute as an aid. E.g.

'One day Jesus and his friends went out in a boat on the sea of Galilee, little waves lapped at the shore (up minute ripples in the taut chute). They all climbed into the boat and set out into deeper water, the sea was like glass, not a wave anywhere. (chute held taut and motionless.). The disciples, used to boats, soon settled down, but then a gentle wind began to blow ruffling the smooth water (chute gently moves.). Slowly the waves got a bit bigger, just a little tiny bit around on a rough sea (suit actions to story). Jesus struggled to his feet, the boat was pitching up and down. He looked at the boisterous waves and told them to be still, he commanded the wind to stop, and suddenly all was calm (chute held taut). The disciples were amazed, they had been frightened of the storm, but now they felt frightened of Jesus as they realised just how powerful their friend was.'

You will find that the children soon get the idea of following the story and they will almost automatically stop the storm actions at the appropriate time. You can add details, like hauling on ropes or rowing with appropriate actions. You can illustrate Peter's faith by a person walking on the chute surface.

Jonah's story - listening to parachute instructions - listening to God; obeying instructions - Jonah didn't; a storm at see, as above; man overboard, under chute; Jonah inside the fish, para-sight; out to Ninevah shade of the week etc.

It is possible to twist all sorts of stories to use the parachute, however a good idea soon palls if it is used continuously, and we need to be wary of using a parachute rather than telling the story, so it is very much a case of first find your story and then see if it is appropriate.

Shoe Shuffle

Number around the circle 1 or 6 as before. All of one number remove a shoe and throw it under the canopy. On a count of 3 the canopy is lifted, mushroomed up on the third lift and all those missing a shoe go into the middle, retrieve their shoe and get back to their place.

Round The Plughole

If your canopy has a hole in the centre place 3 or 4 light small balls (tennis balls) on the surface and keep them moving around the canopy avoiding dropping them through the holes.

Bouncing Balls

The canopy is held taut at chest height with 2 or 3 foam footballs on the surface. 3 or 4 children underneath the canopy have to try to knock the balls off whilst those around the canopy try to keep them on.


aka "SHARK!!"

Everyone sits on the ground With their legs stretched out under the canopy and the canopy held at chest height. One person crawls around under the canopy and is the 'shark'. He quietly grabs the legs of anyone around the perimeter (with many blood-curdling screams) pulls them under the canopy. They, too, then become a shark. (This is quite a scary game and should be avoided for those of a nervous disposition)

Cat and Mouse

Stand holding the canopy at shoulder height making sure there is a space between each child around the perimeter. Place an empty can - the cheese - in the centre of the circle under the canopy. Choose one child to be the cat and one to be the mouse. The cat starts off under the canopy guarding the cheese - the mouse starts off outside the canopy and has to get to the cheese running in between the children holding the canopy. If you have already numbered the children 1 or 6 around the canopy then choose a cat of one number and a mouse of another. The mouse has 20 seconds to get the cheese, the cat has 20 seconds to catch the mouse. Once the game starts, count to 20 (everyone else counts) score one point to the cat if the mouse is caught or one point to the mouse if the cheese is eaten. Score no points if 20 is reached before either the cheese is eaten or the mouse is caught


This works best if the canopy is marked in segments or halves; i.e. 2,4 or 6 teams. Stand around the canopy holding the canopy in both hands at waist level. It can be rippled up and down whilst holding it. Roll a football tinder the canopy. The canopy must be held tight at all times and the ball kicked under the canopy, a goal being scored when it comes out on any side.

Lucky Seven

This is an adaptation of a country dance but works well with the canopy. Number off round the canopy A, B, A, B etc. Use a lively 'jig' tune which repeats AA BB AA BB etc. When the music starts: A Hold The parachute with booth hands, circle 8 paces clockwise B Holding the parachute with both hands, circle 8 paces anti-clockwise B A's turn to face clockwise; B's turn to face anti-clockwise. A's let go of parachute and to the music go under the arms of the B facing them. They do this seven times until they arrive facing, the eighth 'B'. B Holding the parachute with both hands all go into the middle twice mushrooming it each time. When You are tired on a count of 3 lift the canopy as high as possible, mushroom it and bring it down behind you and sit down. In this way you can make a rather hot airless tent supported on the heads. Once inside you can

And to Finish....

When you have finished quickly grasp the canopy at the centre, twist it slightly into a rope, wind it round your arm and stow it in the bag. This can be done very quickly and very cleanly even on damp ground. Or ... (indoors), tell everyone that on 3 they are to let the canopy go and STAND STILL. Mushroom it to a count of three, let go when it is fullest so that it soars to the ceiling. You should be able to step into the middle, catch the centre and deftly stow it before anyone moves!