Helicopters, whirlybirds, twisters, propellers, or whirligigs – whatever you call the seeds of the maple tree, they are a source of fun no matter your age. The scientific term for these flying wonders is samara. Find them abundantly littering the ground under a variety of trees in spring and fall.
We have so much fun tossing helicopters into the sky and watching them spin! After seeing an Instagram post from one of my favorite sites, Nature Play Mothers, I had to try it out this dragonfly craft that takes the whirlybirds to the next level.
You’ll need some helicopter seeds and small sticks from the outdoors. The rest of the materials are variable to what you may have around the house:
- Maple leaf seeds (any variety)
- Small sticks or twigs 2-3 inches work best (we used two larger sticks to make our mobile)
- String (we alternated from kitchen twine to hemp cording)
- Glue (we – and by that I mean me – used a hot glue gun but a tacky glue would work, drying time would be longer)
- Toothpick (or anything pointy) for pressing wing into glue
- Monofilament fishing line (for mobile)
Begin by collecting your materials. Plug in hot glue gun (if using). Let the kids snap the twigs down to size and separate seed pairs. Place a small bead of glue on the back side of a stick and place seed point into glue. Press down with toothpick or some pointy thing (avoid sticking your finger into molten hot glue…it hurts.) The tails are delicate but luckily there’s no shortage if they rip! Place another bead of glue on top of the first seed kernel and glue another wing on the opposite side. Repeat with another set of wings 1/4 inch below. Let dry.
You certainly could stop here if you wanted. The string adds a little more texture, durability, and helps to cover up the glue. Starting at the back, hold the end of your string between both sets of wings. Wrap the string around the front and crisscross it between the wings. Once it is to your liking, you can tie it off, or as we did – cut the string and hot glue it to the back.
Wrapping the string is a great activity for fine-motor practice and concentration. Perfect for our 6-year old still struggling to tie his shoes. I made plenty of dragonflies so our 3-year old could wrap and destroy to her heart’s content, but she was more interested in the sticks.
You can leave your dragonflies as is or tie them on a bit of clear fishing line to create a flying effect. We left a few loose for Lego superhero transportation, but we had so many, turned the rest into a mobile! Using two larger sticks, we crossed them in an “X” shape, and wrapped them with more string. We tied them at two different heights. It came out so fun!
We’d love to hear from you! If you make this project, tag us on Instagram @berkshirefamilyhikes