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High-Flying Fun with Summer Kites

Courtesy of Home Made Simple

Where can you fly a kite? Beaches, backyards … and bathtubs! Kids offered enthusiastic - and innovative - suggestions during a recent kite workshop at Seattle Children's Museum. From Charlie Brown to Benjamin Franklin, kite-flying is a summer tradition that is fun for all ages and ability levels.

"It doesn't have to be a fancy or expensive kite," says Sharon Landes, lead educator at the Seattle Children's Museum. "You can buy the simplest supplies and make it yourself. Just bring your imagination!"

Make Your Own

Constructing homemade kites is both budget-friendly and an opportunity for kids to personalize their creations. To build a basic, diamond-shape or delta-triangle kite, most supplies can be found around the house. Repurposing items can become a valuable lesson in recycling, too. Here's what you'll need:

  • Two sturdy dowels for crosspieces (the lighter, the better)

  • Tightly-woven fabric such as nylon ripstop, paper such as vellum or even layered newspaper that becomes impermeable to wind

  • Tape or non-water soluble glue

  • Scissors

  • String (longer is better for flying)

  • An empty paper towel tube or rolled paper for a handle

  • Streamers

  • Assorted pens, crayons and stickers for decoration

Click here for Home Made Simple's instructions on how to construct your kite. Kite kits are also available and include detailed instructions and the required parts (check out the kit at Clover Toys for $30).

After 15 minutes of instruction at the Children's Museum, kids were whizzing and twirling through with handmade kites in tow – colorful streamers, heart designs and bold inscriptions fluttering behind them.

Kite-making is also an ideal rainy-day activity. The end result can be saved for better weather or even displayed.

"Kites are functional, but they can be decorative, too," says Landes. "Whether they're bought or made, they can be beautifully displayed in a kid's bedroom."

Ready to Fly

For more immediate flights, pre-made kites require minimal assembly and range from small flyers ($7) to four-foot wingspans and beyond ($30 and up). Basic models are available at local shops such as Creative Mom Toys, Kid's Club and Magic Mouse Toys.

The venerable Gas Works Park Kite Shop closed in 2012, but for kite-fliers wanting something more unusual, the Museum of Flight Store offers a limited selection of unique kites. The Expandable Objects Atom series ($32.95) is a colorful, crisscross of wings resembling an atom particle. It folds flat and expands fully-assembled and ready for flight. Perfect for learning tricks, it's suitable for beginners and experts. Another customer favorite is the Red Baron Triplane ($39.95), a triple-wing kite designed to resemble the WWII fighter plane (also famous as Snoopy's nickname, of course).

"I like kites because it gets the kids outside to play and they can learn something about flying and design," says visiting mom Erin Sanders. It's also an activity that everyone can enjoy together since it appeals to all three of her kids, ages 5, 8 and 10.

The Northwest is an ideal place for kite flying thanks to the many windy beaches, bluffs and backyards. When you're ready for liftoff, popular spots include Alki Beach, Gas Works Park, Golden Gardens and Magnuson Park – home to the annual KiteFest in July (on hiatus this year due to budget cuts, but resuming in 2014). Magnuson's Sand Point Head, also known as "Kite Hill," is a particular favorite. The 35-foot hilltop is embraced by winds, clear of obstacles and offers stunning views of Lake Washington and Mount Rainier.

Washington's World Kite Museum and International Kite Festival

The Long Beach Peninsula is a national epicenter for kite exploration. The World Kite Museum is the only museum of its kind in the U.S. and unique internationally.

"We have probably the most diverse representation of kite culture in the world," says Chelsea Libby, executive director of the World Kite Museum. "We have close to 2,000 kites in our collection. At any time, there are kites on display from seven to 10 countries and from 100 years old to contemporary."

Visitors to the museum are greeted by a visually-stunning WWII Cody Manlifter kite mounted in the gift shop. Such oversized kites were utilized during the war to distract airplanes, send soldiers on silent scouting missions and carry weapons.

"It draws people into the museum and is a great conversation piece that kites have a long and interesting history," says Libby.

In addition to the permanent collection, the World Kite Museum also hosts special exhibits. From mid-July to late fall, "Art of the Wind" will showcase the work of Ray Bethell, world-renowned kite flyer. Based in Vancouver, B.C., Bethell competes internationally and has pioneered kite designs and flying techniques. The exhibit will include video of Bethell, feature a selection of his handmade kites and showcase testimonials from children wowed by his expertise.

To watch or fly alongside the pros, the Washington State International Kite Festival in Long Beach is a must-see (Aug. 19 through 25). Now celebrating its 33rd year, it is the nation's largest kite festival with over 1,000 registered fliers. The event includes competitions, stunt flying and spectacular, illuminated nighttime kite events. A highlight for 2013 is the planned, record-breaking mass ascension attempt – 100 individual, four-line stunt kites flying simultaneously.

Families are encouraged to not only watch, but participate. The World Kite Museum hosts free, family kite-making workshops throughout the week as well as the "Red, White and Blue" themed fly event on Thursday, Aug. 22, 10 a.m. to noon. Free and open to all ages, participants are invited to fly their patriotic kites and earn a commemorative kite pin.

For more information, visit www.worldkitemuseum.com or www.kitefestival.com.

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