Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade either in person or on TV is a tradition of American households. It all began in 1928 when Macy’s asked puppeteer, Tony Sarg, to design the high flying floats that evolved into what we see today. Beloved book and film characters float down Broadway with bands, dancers and singers elevating the spirit of the holiday season. The history of the imaginative process that Tony Sarg completed is beautifully archived in Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.
If you can’t make it to New York City or another parade but would like to DIY something with your kids in the style of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then you might have just the right equipment in your home that’s perfect for making a balloon float.
An inflated balloon, construction paper, a ruler or long kitchen spoon, markers, clear tape and masking tape are all you need for your child to create a homemade balloon float. There are numerous ways to transform a latex balloon into a character’s face from cutting and gluing on features or drawing on the balloon with a marker.
A Cricut, a machine that cuts vinyl and other materials into shapes, could be used to make distinct facial features to stick on the balloon if you want specific shapes for eyes, nose, mouth and ears.
Just think about the fun your child will have when brainstorming a favorite character and seeing it develop into a balloon parade float with hard work! Begin with a discussion of what book or film character that your child would like to see in either a local parade or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For some inspiration, watch some of the amazing videos on how the balloons are brainstormed and brought to life at the Macy’s Studio.
Once your child has a plan for creating the balloon character, a supervising adult can blow up the balloon and tie it. The child can draw the body of the character on construction paper, cut it out, tape it on the ruler or long kitchen spoon then tape the balloon to the top. Finally, help your child attach the balloon character with masking tape to a moving toy such as a play car or other remote control vehicle.
Once it is done, have your child drive the balloon around your living room as you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on Thanksgiving morning! Your child could also sing and dance to a favorite song similar to the entertainment on display at the Macy’s Parade!
Another way to build a STEM connection would be to purchase a Code & Go Robot and attach the balloon to it with tape. Your child could program the robot through a mock parade path in your home by pressing the right, left, forward and backward buttons! Just remember to grab 3 AAA batteries so your Code & Go Robot will have power to move the balloon through your child’s parade route at home. Keva Wood Planks made from smooth maple wood provide the perfect parade path border.
The students in Lisa Maples’ STREAM class made balloon floats of their favorite characters, taped them to the Sphero Chariots with the Sphero robots underneath and had a parade in her school’s hallway! They even used metal triangles, wood sticks and their singing voices to make music as they drove their balloon floats down the hall with the Sphero robot being controlled by the iPad attached by Bluetooth to the Sphero.
While your homemade balloon float could be attached to a mid size toy car, SUV, truck or van, the possibilities are endless for other creative transportation solutions including the coding of Sphero Robots with Sphero Chariots!
Instead of just watching the parade on TV or in person, why not start your own tradition this year of making balloon characters and watching them travel around your home. The delight and excitement will no doubt become a memory worth repeating each year!
Lisa Maples is a K-5 STREAM Teacher in Charlotte, NC. Her students create innovative digital projects involving coding, robots and Legos. As a former 3rd and 4th grade National Board Certified teacher, she brings her 30 years of experience into her STREAM Classroom where she teaches 900 students. See more of her students’ projects at her STREAM education website. She also writes inspirational words at www.lisamaples.life.