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Flying Reindeer: Christmas STEM for Kids

Reindeer STEM: How To Make a Reindeer Fly

Just how do those reindeer fly as they pull Santa around on Christmas Eve?

This is a really good question for kids to ask. Reindeer don’t have wings like birds. They don’t appear to be particularly aerodynamic. And they certainly don’t look like they would even enjoy flying.

So how do they get up off the ground?

Okay, so I can’t actually answer that for you. I believe in the power of wonder and imagination, so holiday magic is the only reason I can offer up. But we can make reindeer fly at home, which is still pretty fun.

Let’s try a great Christmas STEM challenge and see if we can figure out how to ake a reindeer fly.

picture of toilet paper tube reindeer flying with the help of a yellow balloon

Making Reindeer Fly: A Christmas STEM Activity

This activity is more than just a chance to practice the scientific method, it’s got an arts and crafts twist too. I love this because Christmas is such a great time to be creative and my kids at least love any excuse to embrace the season.

You also get to offer your little one some important fine motor skill work by using a hole punch. I find a hole punch to be a less stressful way to work on scissor skills. It isn’t exactly the same as using scissors, but it works similar skills like hand eye coordination and nand strength.

(Learn why scissor skills matter so much here: Safe Scissor Skills for Kids)

Materials to Make Your Reindeer Fly:

Reindeer Supplies

  1. Toilet Paper Tube
  2. Brown Construction Paper or Cardboard
  3. Piper Cleaners
  4. Straw
  5. Googly Eyes
  6. Markers or Red Puff Ball
  7. Hole Punch
  8. Tape or Glue

Flying Supplies

  1. Yarn or String
  2. Balloon
  3. Tape

How To Make Your Reindeer

This is the fun craft time. The overall goal isn’t to create a perfect reindeer, but instead to let your child have fun.

Take your toilet paper tube and have your child use the hole punch to punch two holes about half an inch from the end of the tube, just down from the center of the tube. (Think 4 and 8 on a clock.)

Take a pipe cleaner and thread it through the holes so it is even on both sides. Fold the ends of the pipe cleaner over to make the reindeer’s feet.

Now repeat this on the opposite end of the tube so you have four feet.

Take your brown construction paper or cardboard and cut a small over to be the face of your reindeer. Use the hole punch to punch one hole in the middle at the top of the face. Thread half a pipe cleaner through and twist it up to be the antlers.

Use the googly eyes to add eyes and decorate the face with anything else you think it needs! (You can even add a red nose if you want Rudolph to fly for you.)

supplies to make a flying reindeer including pipe cleaners, a straw, googly eyes, a hole punch, toilet paper tube, yarn, and balloon.

How To Set Up Your Reindeer Flight Path

To get your reindeer flying you need enough yarn to stretch across a room. Make sure it has a clear path, you don’t want your reindeer crashing into anything.

Tape one end of your yarn to the wall. If you are doing this as a demo, put it as high as you would like and can reach. If you want your children to let the reindeer fly I recommend putting it just a couple of feet off the floor.

Tape a straw to the top of your reindeer then thread the free end of the yarn through the straw so your reindeer is on the yarn. Then tape the other end of the yarn to the other wall. You want it to be taut so your reindeer doesn’t sag on the line.

Now get your balloon. It’s time to fly.

How To Make Your Reindeer Fly

You have two options to set this up. One is to attach the balloon to the top of the reindeer and then blow it up. While I think this way can be more aesthetically pleasing because you can try to hide the tape holding it all together better.

However, I’ve never found much success with this. And I’d rather my reindeer fly than look perfect, so on to method two.

Blow up your balloon but do not tie it off. (Pro tip: twist the end then pinch it shut. It will be easier to hold onto.)

Tape the balloon to the top of the reindeer. You want the end you are pinching towards the wall. Then pull the reindeer along the yarn until it is up against the wall again.

Stand back, and let go of the balloon. Your reindeer will fly across the room!

The Science of the Flying Reindeer

This is a great activity to do with kids even if you don’t go too deep into the science. Your children are observing what is happening, and even if they can’t put into words what is happening scientifically, they are storing this information. This adds to their database of how the world works and they will be able to use this information later in life.

But let’s talk science too.

Your flying reindeer demonstrates Newton’s 3rd Law. As the air rushes out of the balloon in one direction it pushed the reindeer in the opposite direction with equal force.


Newton’s 3rd Law:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


More STEM Challenges To Try

Just watching your reindeer fly can be fun, but you can take it up a level by trying these little experiments. Ask your little scientists what they think will happen, give it a try, and explore the results!

Fill Your Balloon with Less Air

What happens if you don’t blow the balloon up as much? Does the reindeer slow down? Fly a shorter distance?

Fill Your Balloon with More Air

Can you blow up the balloon even more? What happens with the reindeer’s flight when you do?

Change the Leg Positions

Take a look at the leg position of your reindeer. Now think about how birds fly. Do they fly with their legs hanging down or do they pull their feet up?

So what would happen if you pulled the reindeer’s feet up close to the body? Try playing with different leg positions and see if you can make your reindeer fly faster or slower.

Pull Santa’s Sled

If you are feeling really into this activity, you can try to get your reindeer to pull Santa’s sled.

Take a second toilet paper tube and decorate it like Santa’s sleigh. Thread it onto the yarn behind the reindeer and use a small piece of string or tape to attach it to the reindeer. Then blow up your balloon and see if Santa can make his deliveries!

How To Make a Reindeer Fly: Holiday STEM for Kids

Reindeer STEM Challenge

Once you are done making your reindeer fly you can attach a string and use it as a super cute ornament!

How will your reindeer flight go?

Holiday Activities for Kids
Process Art Activities for Kids
DIY slime and playdough recipes
picture of toilet paper tube reindeer flying with the help of a yellow balloon

Flying Reindeer STEAM

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Create a magical STEAM experience as you make a reindeer fly across the room!

Materials

  • Toilet Paper Tube
  • Brown Construction Paper or Cardboard
  • Piper Cleaners
  • Straw
  • Googly Eyes
  • Markers or Red Puff Ball
  • Yarn
  • Balloon
  • Tape
  • Glue

Tools

  • Hole Punch
  • Scissors

Instructions

How To Make Your Reindeer

  1. Take your toilet paper tube and punch two holes about half an inch in from each end of the tube, towards the bottom of the tube for leg holes.
  2. Thread half a pipe cleaner through the holes in each end to create the legs of the reindeer. Curl up the end of the pipe cleaners to make hooves.
  3. Cut out a reindeer head from the construction paper. Use the hole punch to punch one hole at the top of the head.
  4. Glue on googly eyes and a red puffball nose to make your reindeer's face. (Or draw one on if you would rather.)
  5. Use 3 inches of pipe cleaner and thread it through the hole. Shape into antlers
  6. Glue or tape the head to one end of the toilet paper tube to complete your reindeer.


How To Make Your Reindeer Fly

  1. Tape a straw to the back of your reindeer. (Cut one in half if you don't have short ones.)
  2. Take your yarn and tape or tie it up to one side of your room.
  3. Thread the yarn through the straw on your reindeer.
  4. Stretch your yarn across your room and tape or tie it off. Make sure your yarn is taut.
  5. Take a balloon and blow it up, but do not tie it off. Twist the end to hold the air in.
  6. Tape the balloon to the top of the reindeer with the twisted end close to the wall and your reindeer pointing towards the opposite end of the yarn.
  7. Untwist the end of the balloon and let it go! Your reindeer will fly.


Notes

This activity will probably need some adult help to get set up and to blow up the balloon.

Get as creative as you want with the reindeer! Personalize it and make it fun.

Safety: Use adult supervision whenever your child uses scissors or a hole punch.

While it is just a balloon, you are creating a projectile. Never point your reindeer at anyone's face or eyes. Make sure the reindeer's flight path is clear and that all involved know where it is so no one runs into it.

Christmas STEM and Learning Activities

Nothing says Christmas like STEM! Okay, maybe a few things do. But embracing the holiday season is a great way to get your kids excited about science and learning!

These super fun holiday stem activities are just what your children need to get ready for Christmas and keep their learning skills sharp over the holiday break.

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