Parachute games provide an opportunity for co-operative, non-competitive activities and are good for generating a group spirit and togetherness. They can be used with all ages and abilities and work really well with 11-14 year olds. Parachute games can be used in groups of all sizes and I've found that even young people who might normally opt out of 'sport activities' are attracted by the 'novelty' and usually get involved.
Try to get the biggest parachute you can and if possible one with reinforced grip straps. Purpose made nylon parachutes are almost indestructible and a great investment for youth evenings, special events and camps. Recommended users for each size are 6m (20ft)-12 users, 7.3m (24ft)-16 users, 9.15m (30ft)-20 users.
OK Grahame, where on earth do I get a parachute? Play parachutes are available from a number of online educational, youth and sport suppliers. For readers in the UK, try Sports Warehouse, or call on 0800 783 5011. For readers in the USA and worldwide, try S&S Worldwide, or call on 1-800-288-9941. If you Google 'play parachute' or 'rainbow parachute' you'll discover other suppliers. Prices vary, but the two I've suggested represent good value.
Have the parachute spread out as young people arrive for the youth evening. Begin with a practice activity. Get everyone moving together by raising the parachute and allowing it to fall. Keep hold but don't pull it down. Allow it to billow and fall naturally. This is best done to a steady count. Try to get the canopy as high as possible. Practice this basic co-ordination until everyone is happy.
One person raises their arms, holding onto the parachute. This action is repeated around the circle to create a wave.
Number the young people around the circle, one to five. Lift the chute and on the third go shout a number. The young people who are that number then have to swap places under the canopy before it falls to earth. Make sure that those who remain around the edge keep hold of the parachute but allow the canopy to fall rather than pulling it down hard. This game can be varied by calling two numbers at once and occasionally by calling 'all change' where everyone lets go and runs under the canopy. A sight worth seeing!
Everyone holds the parachute tight at waist height. Place a large ball near the edge. The goal is to try and make the ball roll around the edge of the parachute. To do this someone starts the ball rolling. As it comes towards each player they lower the edge they are holding, and as it goes past they raise the edge. When all the players do this in synchronization it creates a wave going round the edge, pushing the ball round in front of it in a smooth, steady circle. It cannot be done without concentration and co-operation! However, it is very rewarding for the group to eventually achieve a smooth, continuous motion. Once you've done this try speeding up - or change direction!
Everyone holds the parachute at waist height. One half of the circle becomes team A and the other half is team B. The goal is to shake the parachute and flip the ball over the opposing team. Place the ball close to the centre of the parachute and let the two teams try to make the ball flip over the opposite side. Some interesting tactics usually emerge!
HOLE IN ONE
Use a small ball (tennis ball) which can drop through the hole in the
middle of the parachute. Can the group stop the ball from disappearing
down the hole? This game demands some fairly sophisticated
co-ordination skills, but in short spells can be fun. Alternatively,
assign a different coloured ball to each team and ask them to get their
ball through the centre hole, while keeping the other team's ball out.
CAT AND MOUSE
Everyone holds the parachute stretched loosely out at about knee height. Someone becomes a mouse and crawls underneath. Someone else becomes a cat and goes on top. The rest of the group try to hide the mouse by rippling the parachute up and down. The cat tries to catch the mouse, but with everyone rippling the parachute it is difficult to see where it is. If you have a large parachute, you can try the game with two or three mice and two or three cats.
A scary game to be avoided if your young people are of a nervous disposition! Everyone sits on the floor in a circle holding the parachute with their legs underneath it. The parachute is the sea and they are sitting on the beach. Shake the edge of the parachute to generate ripple or wave effects. Once the waves are going well someone is selected to be a shark and disappears under the chute. They move around underneath and because of the 'waves' it will be difficult to see where they are. The shark chooses a victim, grabs them by the feet, and drags them under the parachute. The victim is required to give an appropriate blood-curdling scream before disappearing under the parachute. This person now becomes a new shark. To prolong the game you can have the original shark revert to being a bather - or to make it more lively you can have several sharks in there at once. An alternative is to appoint a lifeguard who runs around the circle to attempt to pull (gently) the victim from the shark before they disappear under the waves.
Other parachute games and activities can be found online with a simple Google search for 'parachute games'.
- As always, games should be supervised by the group leaders.
- If playing the games outdoors, grass is the best surface, but make sure it is dry and not slippery.
- Do not allow young people to use the parachute as a trampoline with the edge held tight and a 'player' bounced in the middle. It is all too easy to be bounced on hard ground as the parachute is slackened, with injury to back or head.
- Nylon parachute material is inflammable. Use with care and keep away from barbecues, campfires etc.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
All of the games require cooperation, working together and being part of a team. You could use this theme to help young people understand more about Christian fellowship and being part of a church. Believers are in the world together. There is no such thing as individualistic Christianity. Jesus calls us to work together and everyone is important, everyone is needed, to bring Good News to the world.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth he described the church as the 'body of Christ.' Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 together and in small groups discuss:
- What does this tell us the church should be like?
- What happens when everyone gets involved?
- How did our games illustrate the 'body of Christ'?
- What do you think you can do to play your part in the youth group as part of the body of Christ?
- What can we all do in our youth group to demonstrate that we are part of the body of Christ?
End by praying for each other and your church. Praise God for Christian
friends and fellowship. Thank God for your church and all you receive
through it. Pray for the needs of people in the church.
For more themed youth nights check out Balloon Bonanza, Foot Party, Newspaper Night, Record Breakers.
Congratulations you've reached the end. In the coming weeks I plan to add more themed evenings with icebreakers and teaching, along with thought provoking articles on youth ministry and leadership. May I encourage you to subscribe to INSIGHT and you won't miss a thing. It will also encourage me to keep writing.