Let’s Go Fly a Kite - Tips from an Expert
Those famous words from the Mary Poppins song immediately bring thoughts of sunshiney days with cool breezes and outdoor fun! With spring just around the corner we are heading into the BEST season for kite flying. For the lowdown (or is that the highup?!) on all things KITE, we caught up with Jo Baker, former world champion kite flyer and founder of Kites 4 Kids.
Q. What are the main benefits of kite flying for kids?
So many benefits! Kite flying is unplugged. It’s calming, it relaxes you and makes you feel at one with the world. Feeling the kite tug at the string while it soars in the sky is such an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors, getting some fresh air and exercise.
Kite flying develops creative thinking, both in the making of the kite as well as flying and adapting it to changes in the wind. It also provides great exercise for children’s eyes, as they focus near and far observing and controlling the kite’s flight. So important in this day and age when kids spend so much time looking up close at screens. And although most kites are flown by one person, a beautiful kite always attracts admirers, often complete strangers — so it is a surprisingly social activity too.
And for kids it can be quite empowering, knowing that little kite flying high in the sky is only there because of YOU… you are controlling it and you are its destiny.
Q. What are the best kites for kids and why?
There are so many kites out there in so many shapes and sizes — one string, two string even four string kites and many different shapes.
So how do you choose the right kite for your child? It’s a good question. Every child is different — but here are a few general tips I use when recommending a first kite:
1. Keep it simple - start with ONE string
2. The kite should not be BIGGER than the child holding the string
3. Stick to a flat kite like a diamond or delta (triangle) shape. Box kites or 3-dimensional kites can be harder to assemble and fly.
4. Make your OWN kite. There are so many plans on the web for kites to make at home, once again start simple. Make a diamond kite. Let the kids decorate it and experiment with different materials, be creative.
Remember — the kite you fly is an extension of you, whether it’s a kite you have bought or one you have made. The design or picture on the kite is often a reflection of the person flying it.
Q. Can you give us some key tips on how to fly a kite?
To get yourself started, follow these simple steps:
- Work out the direction of the wind. You can do this by wetting your index finger and holding it up and away from your body. The side of your finger that feels cool is the side the wind is blowing from.
- Stand with the wind at your back
- Have a helper hold the kite downwind from you, in line with the breeze
- Extend a sufficient length of string (minimum 20 metres for small kites) to assist in launching.
- Pull kite swiftly, when kite has reached a height where it maintains flying by itself then let out more string to achieve desired height
- If the Kite begins to drop, give a tug on the line to make the kite climb. As long as there is tension on the line, the kite will stay up.
You should not have to run with your kite to make it fly!
Q. Are there any important safety tips for kite flying?
It is important to always fly with the safety of others and yourself in mind. Flying kites of any type is a fun activity if you observe some common sense about how and when you fly.
1. Always fly your kite in an open space of at least 100 metres by 100 metres, keeping well away from:
- Power lines
- Parked cars
- Any other hazard that is obvious when you set up
2. Always fly a kite at least 5 kilometres away from airfields and airports. This is actually an Australian Civil Aviation regulation.
3. Do not fly if there is any risk of thunderstorms or lighting.
4. Know the wind conditions that you and your kite can handle.
5. Do not use wire or fishing line as flying line.
Q. What are the best weather conditions for beginner kite flying?
Just because its blowing a gale, does not mean it’s the perfect conditions to go fly a kite! There is such a thing as too much wind. Yes… kites need wind to lift them in the air, but a gentle breeze is far more fun to fly in than a howling gale where you have to hang onto your child in fear of them getting carried off in the wind.
Different kites do need different winds to fly in, but generally most kites will fly in 5 to 20 knots. If your kite has sticks in it then in strong winds it is likely to get damaged.
Q. What are the best places to fly a kite?
Find a nice open area… free of trees and power lines. A beach or park by the sea are usually the best spots because they have open spaces not blocked by buildings and trees.
This means the wind is much less turbulent and makes flying the kite so much easier.
You may have tried to fly a kite on a oval surrounded by trees and buildings, and discovered that the kite tends to get tossed about. This is because as the wind goes over and around trees and buildings, it gets bumpy and so does your kite.
Also remember kite safety. Do not fly over people, cars, roads and in Australia make sure you are at least 5km from any airport.
Q. Are there any Kite Clubs for Kids in Australia?
If kids are keen to learn more there are a number of Kite Clubs around Australia. Here are some that have activities for kids:
- Australian Kite Flyers Society - Sydney
- Adelaide Kite Flyers Association
- Kite Flyers of Tasmania
- Redcliffe Kite Club - Brisbane
- Victorian Flash Mob Kite Flyers - not a formal club, just a “grab a kite and lets go flying group”. EVERYONE welcome to join!
Kite Festivals in Australia
Click through for Jo’s list of the Best Kite Festivals in Australia >>>
Thirty years ago Jo Baker and her husband purchased their first kite and they haven’t looked back! Starting with sport kites they joined a team and competed around Australia for many years, representing Australia at the World Cup in France in 1998. In 2005 Jo was crowned World Champion (Soft Kite Category) at the first World Kite Championships in China.
In 1994 Jo started Kites 4 Kids, running kite making workshops with kids in schools all over Victoria. They also do professional Kite Displays at events and festivals in Australia and around the world including schools in Guam and China and events in Kuwait, Thailand, India, China, Hong Kong, Singapore Bali, France and the USA.