Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Up, Up, and Away! Music Activities With a Parachute.

Small parachutes are a fun and unique way to complement music activities. Parachutes are common in P.E. classes, but I enjoy using them for my clients in the special education setting to target a variety of learning objectives. Unlike the huge one pictured here which can be used for large groups, I suggest using an 8' - 10' parachute in small group activities. Parachutes that are smaller than this do not catch as much air nor achieve the same effect of suspension in the air and subsequent slow, floating down.

When to use a parachute:

1. Gross motor movement.

-Children who are in wheelchairs benefit greatly from using a parachute because it is easy for them to participate with a group in a movement activity that does not require lower extremity motor skills. There are also many applications for students to practice grasping and raising their arms up in the air. (Make sure that the parachute has handles or loops attached to it to facilitate the activity.) I like the song, "Reach Up High," by the group Parachute Express for this activity.

-Children can participate in dancing with or without wheelchairs by taking turns running in and out from under the parachute and dancing underneath before it drops down. The students in wheelchairs can be pushed in and out or allowed to dance as the parachute goes up and down over the top of them. Popular music is the best choice for this activity. Currently, Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers are favorites in the classes I go to.

2. Academic/Social skill development.

-I like to use a very light blow up ball about 10" in diameter for these activities. (Nerf balls seem to be too heavy and bouncy.) Most of the parachutes come with different colored sections so take turns calling out colors on the parachute and see if you can move the ball to the requested color. There is a fun song by Aaron Carter called, "Bounce," that works well for this activity.

-Another option for using a ball is to see if the students can roll the ball on the parachute to one of their peers. This requires that they work together and also that they recognize their peers. Try this activity at the beginning of the school year when there are new students in the class.

3. Relaxation.

-The parachute provides refreshing bursts of air as it is thrown up high and floats back down. The key to successfully gaining this effect is that the group must stretch up high to place the parachute and then slowly allow it to return to the ground.

-Stretching and breathing are important components to relaxation. The motion of the parachute up and down are good physical cues to help students breathe in and out slowly in preparation for music assisted relaxation. One good song to use for this is Enya's song, "Watermark." This song repeats a series of up and down melodic lines that evoke the feeling of raising and lowering the parachute.

The Role of Music:

1. Lyric instruction. Songs that sing about reaching up or going "high" or "low" are perfect for the parachute activities. There are also songs that talk about fast and slow or moving left or right. Songs about colors such as Hap Palmer's, "All the Colors of the Rainbow," can be used as a way to discuss colors and to guide the bouncing ball around the parachute.

2. Setting the mood. Songs are a powerful way to set the mood for the activity. Relaxing music will evoke slow motions up and down, while fast music with a lively beat is good for trying to keep a ball bouncing on the parachute without letting it fall off.

3. Melodic cues. Music like Enya's, "Watermark," guides the participants in moving up and down like the melody. Other motions such as swaying or spinning may also be tied to the melodic line.

Jump in the fun -- and don't forget your parachute!


  1. This is a great post - thank you! I'm a school counselor and my colleagues have used a parachute before. I'm off to check out the rest of your blog!

    Here via COE - my Flat Stanley post was included also.

  2. I love the parachute suggestions! I use music a lot in my classes but I had forgotten about the parachute.

  3. Thanks for the resource! I am also a Music Therapist and I'm constantly looking for new things to do. I can't wait to check out the rest of your blog!


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