There are many things that fly over Lakeland, Florida in the Spring.  Birds are always plentiful here.  But those who are fascinated with flying machines are drawn like the migrating birds to our annual Sun N’ Fun Fly-In, filling our skies with a wide variety of wonderous things that fly!

Young children often search the skies for the occasional plane to fly by.  But at this time of year, families in Lakeland can enjoy frequent flights by propeller planes, jet planes, helicopters, ultralights, and even hot air balloons.   This is a great time to expand on your child’s interest in this fascinating mode of travel.    Enjoy activities in your backyard to set the stage, and if you can, go for the show !  If nothing else, get up early and go watch the hot air balloons lift off on Sat. morning.  Below are some ideas and links to get you started.  Whether or not you are near Lakeland does not matter.  There are many air shows all over the world.  FIND out when one is near you.

You never know where or when the “spark” in your child will light up and become a lifetime of interest.   My son got this spark early on, from airplanes and space ships, and is now a Sophomore at the Central Florida Aerospace Academy (which is on the Sun N Fun Museum grounds) majoring in Engineering, with a career goal of designing future aircraft.   It is a great, small, specialized high school with amazing teachers.  It is an amazing thing to watch your child’s interests grow and develop under good guidance.

Observing from your own backyard or a city Park.

Watch the skies and LISTEN to the sounds passing by.  Try to determine if it is propeller plane, or a jet engine, or a helicopter.  (This is an extension of our Timbre exploration.)  In Kindermusik Our Time, we have been listening to recorded airplane sounds, from both propeller and jet planes.  The children are FASCINATED with these sounds !  And they are especially good at mimicing these sounds with their tongues and lips.  This is great vocal play:  for a propeller plane, use the tongue at the top of the mouth with voiced air (like rolling Rs);  for a jet, keep lips tight and force air through;  for helicopters, the best representation is saying “whop, whop, whop” quite fast.

This is a perfect opportunity to teach a child to use binoculars to get a closer look at the planes overhead.  And watch for the white smoke that comes from the plane’s exhaust.  The show planes are especially known for their creative use of these CONTRAILS.  Use your finger to follow the whirly twirly lines that remain in the air, and have fun using your voice to go higher or lower in pitch according to the line.

Print out some coloring pages of airplanes, helicopters and hot air balloons from this Squidoo site. (organized in alphabetical order, keep scrolling down)  These simple pictures, and the child’s ability to show their creativity, will help them identify and connect with the sounds they make.  If you go see the air shows or the hot air balloons, you may want to take these pictures and some crayons along with you to help with the waiting process.

Pretend to be a plane.

Obviously, young children love to be lifted off the ground and pretend to fly around the room, or the great outdoors, safe in the arms of their parents.  GOOD exercise… for mom or dad !

We are enjoying several fun activities about planes in our “Away We Go” Kindermusik class.  One fun rhyme allows us to act like a plane, with our hands in a plane shape, or with our bodies.

“I crouch down low…  my wings are ready, moving slowly… steady… steady.  Faster, Faster,  running by, I run and JUMP into the Sky !”

Parents can pretend to be the Air Control Tower to help the “plane” follow directions.  “This is Control Tower to David 003, Come in David 003… (they respond)….  You are cleared for takeoff.”  Instruct the “plane” to Soar high or low,  fast or slow, straight, in a circle, or even in a zig zag pattern !   Reinforce their ability to remember their right from their left by calling out these directions (4 years old and up).  If they are older and learning their clock hand positions, use the more traditional form of direction.  “Left to your 9 o’clock.”

Listen to and sing SONGS about airplanes, etc.

You can find the full rhyme (above) and the “Soaring” song on the Away We Go Kindermusik Home CD #2, or it can be downloaded from  And YES, I still have some space in my Thursday Our Time classes for you and your toddler or 2 year old.

Please feel free to share your suggestions for songs about flying things in the comments below !

You may also have some songs in your adult collection.  Some of my Favorites to share with my children include:

  • “I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane” by John Denver on his Album “Rhymes and Reasons”  (and remade by lots of different artists).
  • “Jet Airliner” – by the Steve Miller Band on their 1977 album Book of Dreams
  • “Into the Blue” by Rod McDonald     Listen to a audio clip here.  It is about the joy of piloting a small propeller plane.    The album is great, and my kids love to sing along with this airplane song, as well as “It’s a Tough Life” (the joy of life in Florida) and “6 Strings and a Hole Big and Round” (the joys of playing the guitar… well!).  Be aware, this is not an album of children’s music, not all the songs are perfect for young children, it is much more geared for thinking adults.  If you like the style of Bob Dylan, you will like Rod.  He even comes to Arts in the Park in downtown Lakeland about once a year to perform with the Joe Prine Concert Series.
  • OK – ADD to my list in the comments below.  What’s YOUR favorite kid0-friendly song about flying?


Enjoy the Sun N’ Fun FlyIn

Just driving closer to the airport and finding a shady place to park is a great way to see more airplanes, and watch as they perform amazing maneuvers.  But to really watch them take off and land in all their glory, grab some tickets and head to the airfield to watch the shows.   Their schedule is online, but if you have an iphone or Android, “there’s an APP for that!”  Just search: Sun N Fun 2012.

This year they are making it more Family Friendly with their NEW!  Mobile Mountain Aviation Themed Kid Zone .

There are lots of unique and amazing things to walk around and see.  I have taken my children several times in the past, and have always enjoyed the opportunity to see something new (like the replica of the very first workable Wright Brothers aircraft), to try something new (like getting into the kid sized simulated airplane and steering to make it really move), and to start a great discussion about some topic that probably wound’t have come up otherwise (like taking a tour inside an aircraft and talking about the different jobs people on that plane would do).  I recommend this for children who are 3 years or older.

Be prepared with lots of sun screen, good walking shoes, a good quality stroller with good shade, and lots of water to drink…  and maybe some ear protection for those who are sensitive to loud sounds.

The Sun N Fun Museum is open year round, and has excellent opportunities for education and exploring the world of flight.  Their summer camp for teenagers is amazing… After one week of training, my son was able to actually fly a plane (with an instructor) over to the coast.


Hot Air Balloon – Hare and Hound Competition

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE every year is much quieter…  the Hot Air Balloon Event on Saturday morning.  That would be THIS Saturday, March 31st at 6:00 am.  Yes, it is crazy early, and YES it is soooo worth it !    Important to note:  WEATHER MATTERS !!!  If the wind is too strong, or it is raining, the balloons will not be flying.  Check their status on Facebook, Twitter, or even on their own Radio station, which is on the app, as well as on AM

You don’t have to pay the price for a ticket to the fly-in, but you can pay the price to park in their parking lot and ensure a good view of the balloons filling and lifting off.  Or drive over to County Line road, which is west of the airport.  Choose a spot that is south of Medulla Rd.  The winds are expected to be Southwesterly so the balloons should be headed that direction.  You won’t see them lifting off, but should be able to watch many balloons floating by.   AND you may see the “game” in action.    Yes, they are playing a game with their balloons called the Hare and Hound Competition.

A Hare and Hound Competition consists of all participating balloons, or Hounds, following a lead balloon, or Hare, to a target point chosen and known only by the Hare. Once the lead balloon chooses a spot and lands, the crew places a giant X on the ground. It’s this X that all other balloons are to target with a mighty throw of a beanbag after getting as close as possible without touching down (or hitting anything, like electrical wires or buildings). The beanbag that lands closest is the winner.

Children will LOVE hearing about the game, and watching the balloons get close to the ground, but then take off.   The balloons start filling up around 6:30 am. and it takes a little while to see the first ones come up.  The children may enjoy playing a similar game while waiting.  Take some bean bags with you.  Make sure to have one different enough, it can be identified as “the hare”.  This one should be thrown first.  Play the game by tossing the other bean bags as close as possible to “the hare”.   Younger children may be allowed to stand a little closer.  The closest one to “the hare” wins.  Bean bags can be easily made with those individual socks that have lost their match !  Fill the bottom 3 inches of the foot part with dried beans and tie a knot in the sock.  Flip the ends of the “tube” of the sock, and bring it back over the knot and the foot of the sock.  Wa-La !  Bean bags.  Or just bring your game of Bocci Ball (same game, different object)

If you don’t live in Lakeland, or if the weather won’t cooperate for us tomorrow, keep a look out for the next Hot Air Balloon Event near you, check out

Please feel free to share any ideas you have on helping children explore the world of flying things !