Inflatables is an open-ended design activity that focuses on 3D spatial reasoning. In this activity, learners use recycled materials and simple tools to create inflatable creatures or sculptures. This activity is adaptable for a wide range of age. For example, older learners can make and test complex creations, while younger learners are happy with decorating a small bag and then launching it off the fan.


activity video:



Engineering and Invention: Aerodynamics, Buoyancy, Structures

Force and Motion



  • Plastic bags and/or plastic sheets (recycled plastic shopping bags, new bags in a range of colors, 2 mil plastic sheeting, mylar, cellophane)

  • Scotch (transparent) tape rolls

  • 2” x 18”-24” Tag (poster) board strips for base

  • Large paperclips

  • (Optional) Binder clips

  • Staples and stapler

  • Scissors (adult scissors with sharp blades work best)

  • Utility knives

  • Permanent markers (dark for light plastic, and silver metallic for dark or black plastics)

  • Fan(s) (that can blow air vertically)

  • (Optional) Rulers, circle forms/stencils

  • (Optional) Card stock sheets

  • (Optional) Blow dryers

  • (Optional) Wire

  • (Optional) Paper towel and toilet paper rolls (cut up into smaller rings)

  • (Optional) Iron &

  • butcher paper (for plastic fusing)

  • (Optional) Decoration supplies (feathers, googly eyes, string/yarn)

  • (Optional) Example/inspiration photos of real world inflatables (blimps, hot air balloons, etc.)

safety issues

Don’t let young children use scissors or utility knives; assist/monitor older children when they’re using scissors or knives.


inflatable, balloons, spatial reasoning, engineering design, three dimensions, open-ended activity, team activity, kinetic sculpture, inexpensive, recycled materials


Science Museum of Minnesota