The Best Simple Paper Airplane Designs For Kids

Learn how to make and fly simple paper airplanes.

The ideal paper for folding paper airplanes is fairly lightweight, but stiff enough to hold a crease and keep its shape in flight. Copier or printer paper that you can buy in packages of 500 sheets for under $4.00 at discount stores or office supply stores works well, and last a long time. The only other thing you need is a firm, flat surface for folding.

Try to make straight, precise folds with sharp creases. The more carefully the folds are made, the better your airplanes will fly. First bend the sheet over, placing the corners together. Then, holding the edges firmly in place with one hand, flatten down the sheet with the other hand to make a sharp, straight crease.

The Jet is the one design most kids learn first. It is fast, and it throws well for distance. Try to keep both sides as symmetric as possible when folding it, and make the creases nice and sharp near the narrow nose of the plane.

Here are directions for a very simple Jet:

Step 1-Take an 8 ½ X 11-inch sheet of paper and fold it in half, lengthwise.

Step 2-Open the sheet and lay it flat with the crease side down.

Step 3-Fold down the front two corners toward the inside of the plane, making the edge of the paper meet the fold.

Step 4-Fold down the sides again, making the edges of the fold meet each other in the center.

Step 5-Fold the sides in again, and you are finished.

Basic version of the Jet:

Step 1-Fold an 8 ½ X 11-inch sheet of paper lengthwise, creasing it down the center. This is the center crease.

Step2-Take the left top corner and fold it down, so the short edge lines up with the center crease, creating a 45-degree angle at the nose of the plane. Turn the plane over and fold down the same corner on the other side.

Step 3-Take the new edge and fold it down to the center crease again. This makes the nose narrower. Turn the plane over and repeat on the other side.

Step 4-Again; fold the new edge down to the center crease. Fold carefully so that the new crease goes all the way to the tip.

Step 5-Unfold this last fold just enough to spread the wings.

The next plane does not fly very fast, but is great for long glides from second-story windows.

The Glider:

Step 1-Fold an 8 ½ X 11-inch sheet of paper widthwise, forming a center crease. Unfold the paper and flip it over, so the crease sticks up.

Step 2-Fold one of the long edges to create a flap about an inch wide, along the entire length. Press down on the crease to make it as thin as possible.

Step 3-Fold the flap over four more times, pressing hard each time so it stays thin.

Step 4-Fold the sheet in half along the center crease. The flap should be on the outside.

Step 5-One inch from the center crease and parallel to it, make another fold on each side to make wings. Unfold the wings partway so they make a Y-shape when you hold the center crease.

Once you have made all your folds and the plane looks symmetrical, it is time to trim it, or adjust it, to make it fly better. First give it a gentle toss forward. You want it to glide smoothly and gently to the ground, either flying straight or in a gradual curve.

Asymmetric folding usually results in asymmetric flight or veering so make your folds carefully!

If the nose drops and the plane dives into the ground, bend up the back of the wings slightly.

If the nose rises first and then drops, bend down the back of the wings slightly.

How you throw a paper airplane is important to how it flies. Jets can be launched with a lot of speed. Gliders require a slower, gentler toss. Do not throw your plane like a ball with a whole arm motion, but try to use a quick flick of the wrist instead-like you throw a dart.

CAUTION: Never launch your plane (or any other object) toward a person or animal, or even fragile objects. Although it is only paper, the point may damage a person's eye or cause other injuries.

The largest paper airplane was built by a group of university students in Holland. It had a wingspan of more than 45 feet, and it flew a distance of 114 feet from an elevated platform.

Tony Felch of the United States holds the record for the longest throw by distance. He threw a paper airplane 193 feet, indoors on level ground.

Ken Blackburn, also of the United States; hold the record for the longest throw by time aloft. His paper airplane stayed in the air for 27.6 seconds.

The Wright brothers' first flight of a real airplane covered only 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds.

© High Speed Ventures 2011