Easy Paper Airplanes for Kids

Learn how to make the 4 easiest paper airplanes that you can quickly fold without difficulty. These simple paper planes fly great too!

Folding paper airplanes is a fun activity and it also offers several educational benefits. For example, manipulating paper to make precise folds helps to improve hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Beginners (especially young children) often don't have this dexterity, so it is important for them to start with easier designs. Learning to follow instructions and reproducing the results on your own piece of paper enhances 3D spacial awareness, improves the ability to process and apply information and encourages paying attention to details. For someone new to paper airplanes, it is important to start with designs that are simple and easy to follow.

Paper airplanes of different sizes

Paper airplanes also offer the opportunity to teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) concepts such as geometry, the physics of flight, aerodynamics, problem solving and creativity. It's a fun, hands-on way to explore the scientific method of experimentation and the engineering principles of building and testing.

What Makes a Paper Airplane Easy or Hard?

In short, it's a combination of the number of folds, the complexity of those folds and the reliability of the paper airplane design.

Number of Folds
Layers of folded paper

A paper airplane that requires many folds takes longer and is more difficult to fold correctly. When a paper airplane has lots of folds, it is important to make those folds very precisely. Small errors early on can magnify into big errors on later steps. With many folds, you need to have more skill to make those folds accurately. Additionally, airplanes with lots of folds often end up being more compact with many layers. This means that when you are doing the final steps, you are folding several layers of paper at the same time, and it can be difficult to keep everything aligned and make accurate folds while you are folding a thick bundle of paper. Airplanes with fewer folds will be quicker and easier to make.

Fold Complexity

A simple fold is bending one piece over and pressing it flat. Some folds are more complex. Several of our airplane designs have tricky accordion folds or multi-step folds where you have to twist and tuck the paper in a very specific way. These techniques take some practice to learn. Paper planes that avoid complex folds will be easier to construct.

Design Reliability

Some paper airplane designs are just better than others. They are very reliable and forgiving of errors and fly well all the time. Other designs are very picky and only work under ideal circumstances, and only after some careful tweaking and fine tuning. Well designed airplanes will be easier to throw and enjoy.

Do Simple Paper Airplanes Perform Poorly?

You may think that fancy paper planes that are complicated to fold will always perform better than simple designs, but this simply isn't true. For example, the Basic Dart has only 5 simple folds and it performs very well. On the other hand, the Spin Plan has 11 complex folds, requires some careful fine tuning, and in the end it doesn't even fly as well as the Basic Dart. It is clear that the complexity of the design does not directly correlate to its performance. So, don't worry, the easy designs listed below will still perform quite well.

Folding Tips and Tricks

If you have not made many paper airplanes before, it make take a little practice to understand and follow the instructions. Seeing a picture on the screen and then reproducing that fold in front of you requires some visual awareness that you may have to develop. At first, it may also be a little tricky to make your folds correctly and accurately. If you want to make paper airplanes easier, here are a few key skills to learn.

Follow the Directions

Make sure that you follow the directions in order, from the first step all the way through to the end. Don't skip steps or rush ahead until you have compared your paper airplane to the photo on the screen and have made sure that yours matches. Moving on to the next step before the previous one is completed correctly is a classic rookie mistake.

Crisp Folds

Beginners will often fold the paper over and then press it flat with the palm of their hand. This will often lead to an inaccurate, wobbly and weak fold. Straight clean folds will work much better. Take your time lining up the edges and then slowly run your finger down the crease while keeping everything aligned. Then use your fingernail to run it along the new fold again to make it even flatter.

Symmetry
Folding Symmetry

Almost all paper airplanes are symmetrical. This means that the left and right sides look the same. When the instructions tell you to fold the left side and then the right side, take great care to make sure that you fold each side the same amount. Use a ruler if you need to measure where the fold needs to go.

Throwing

When someone new to paper airplanes tries to throw one, they often throw it like a ball - as hard as they can with their hand moving in an arcing motion. This isn't the best way to throw a paper airplane. If you release the paper plane a split second too late, it will crash into the ground. And by throwing it a full speed, the paper will deform and flutter which results in a poor flight. Instead, you want your arm to move in a straight pushing motion. Try holding the airplane near your shoulder and then extend your arm straight forward, releasing the airplane at the end of the stroke. Always start throwing a new airplane and slow speeds, and then work up to harder tosses if it seems like the paper airplane can support it. Many paper airplanes prefer a very gentle toss.

Easiest Paper Airplane Designs

Here are our selections for the 4 easiest paper airplane designs that perform well for beginners. To make them even easier, download and print our folding templates. These have lines printed on the paper so you know exactly where to fold. If you have a child who is having difficulty, you might try pre-folding the airplane and then unfolding it so the paper already has the creases in it. When your child tries to fold it now, the paper will fold more easily where it needs to go.


The Basic Dart is the classic paper airplane design. It is our go-to airplane to teach to all new paper pilots. The reason why this is our number one choice is because it only has 5 simple folds that are easy to follow. It also flies very well even if some of the folds are a little sloppy or inaccurate. So, if this is your first time making a paper airplane, start here.

Learn to fold the Basic Dart

The Stable is another one of our favorites. It has 7 simple folds and it is a very stable airplane that flies in nice big loops. The first two steps are the same as the Basic Dart, so it's a good second design for someone ready to learn something new.

Learn to fold the Stable

The Lock-Bottom shares its first 3 steps with The Stable, so it's a good way to build off your existing skills. The 9 steps in this design are all easy to fold and this airplane flies very far. This design allows the optional use of scissors to make little flaps on the back of the wings. You can bend these flaps to make the airplane do tricks. This is an easy to way to start learning how to steer your paper planes.

Learn to fold the Lock-Bottom

The Lift-Off paper airplane design is very similar to the Basic Dart, so it will be easy to learn. The difference is that it gives you the opportunity to use a rubber band to launch the airplane very far. You may be wondering why this is included in our list of easy paper airplanes. It's because we have observed many kids trying to fold and fly their first paper airplane, and one difficulty that we have seen over and over again is the skill of throwing. Kids, especially young kids, don't yet have the strength, dexterity and height to throw a paper airplane very far. Using a rubber band as a little catapult will make it easier to get a satisfying flight and it will make the initial experience more enjoyable.

Learn to fold the Lift-Off

Want some more easy airplanes? If you visit our homepage you will find more than 50 different paper airplane of all types. There are some checkboxes near the top of the list that you can use to filter the airplanes by difficulty. So, a great way to get started is to filter the list down to the easy airplanes and then look at the pictures and find something that catches your eye. Here is a direct link to the list with only the easy airplanes displayed. Once you have mastered the easy ones, change the filter to show medium difficult airplanes and keep practicing!

Troubleshooting Help

Many paper airplanes will not fly perfectly the first time. You need to watch the flight and then make small adjustments to improve it. An easy adjustment might be using a piece of tape to hold the airplane together. It could be adding a paperclip to the front to move the weight forward. It could also be bending the rear end of the wings up or down to make the airplane fly in a level path. Here are some quick tips for some common problems. If you are interested in learning more about how to steer your paper airplane, read our "How To Steer Your Paper Airplane" article.

Airplane dives into the ground

The airplane may be nose heavy. If you added a staple or paperclip to the nose, remove it. Otherwise, bend the back edges of the airplane up a little bit.

Bend wing edges up
Bend the wings edges up to correct a diving paper airplane.
Airplane flies in an upward arc, then stalls or slows down and falls

The airplane is tail heavy. Add a little weight to the nose by using a staple or paperclip. You can also bend the back edges of the airplane down a little bit.

Bend wing edgs down
Bend the wings edges down to correct a stalling paper airplane.
Airplane banks and curves off to one side

Notice which wing is higher and bend the back edge of that wing up a little bit. For example, if the left wing goes up and the airplane makes a right turn, this can be corrected by bending the trailing edge of the left wing up a little bit. Now it should fly more level.

Airplane does a corkscrew spin as it flies

It's a cool trick, but if you don't like it you can undo the spin by adjusting the wings. First, try giving your wings an upward "dihedral" angle to increase stability. If that doesn't solve the problem, try bending the back edges of the airplane in opposite directions. For example, if the airplane spins clockwise (looking from the back), you can bend the trailing edge of the left wing up and the right one down.

upward dihedral
An upward dihedral is more stable.
Airplane flips upside down and keeps flying

Another cool trick! This can often be solved by giving the wings a little upward "dihedral" angle (see above). Remember, paper airplanes tend to unfold a little during flight, so you may need to use some tape or exaggerate the dihedral angle so that the angle remains positive during flight. The problem could also be that the center of mass is too high up on the airplane. Try adding a little weight to the bottom with a staple or paper clip. Gravity will pull it down and keep the airplane from flipping.

Personalize and Decorate

Now that you have learned how to easily fold a paper airplane, let's have some fun with it! Personalize your aircraft by drawing patterns on the wings, coloring in the sides, adding stickers or gluing on glitter. The perfect airplane is the one that you customize to be just the way you like it. Here are some photos of some cool decorated paper airplanes that some of our readers have sent in.

Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader
Personalized paper airplane sent in by a reader

Do you have a fancy paper plane that you have personalized? Email a picture to contact@foldnfly.com and we'll include it on this page. Emailed pictures should not include any personally identifying information. Get your parents permission first.

Activities and Games

You may also be interested in playing some fun paper airplane games or having a contest. Incorporating your friends and family into the activity is a great way to have some more fun with paper flight. Here are a few of our favorite games:

Runway Landing Airplane runway

This will test your ability to throw a paper airplane accurately. Use some tape or string to mark off a landing area on the ground. Then stand a certain distance away and try to have your paper airplane land on the target. You get points depending on how close you land.

Paper Airplane Golf

This game is similar to frisbee golf, but with a paper airplane instead. Find a box or bucket to use as the hole. Place the hole in one room of the house and start in another room. Throw the airplane towards the hole. Go to where it landed and make a second throw from that location. The goal is to get the paper airplane into the hole using the fewest number of tosses.

If you want to learn about some additional paper airplane party games, check out our full list here: Paper Airplane Party Games.

Conclusion

Folding a paper airplane is not only a fun activity but it also serves as an effective learning tool. It offers an excellent way to introduce and explore basic STEAM concepts through hands-on experiences. By starting with simple designs and progressively trying more complex ones, you can build your confidence gradually. As you become more skilled at folding and flying paper airplanes, you may find yourself delving deeper into the physics, engineering and design principles that make them soar. Enjoy!

Flying paper airplanes
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