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From skydiving to recess, parachutes are used for fun and safety. So how do parachutes work to slow down people in the sky, or make a fun bubble to play in? Join Squeaks and Jessi as they show you how forces allow parachutes to do their job!

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Have you ever played under a parachute at school? You and your friends hold onto the edge, flip it up towards the sky, and then slip inside and watch it slowly float down on top of you. Or, maybe you've seen a skydiver jump out of an airplane. After he jumps, he falls through the air, and then he opens up his parachute. The parachute slows the skydiver down, so he falls gently towards the ground and can make a safe landing. But, have you ever thought about how parachutes work?

Well, in the end, parachutes work because of air. That's right, the stuff that's all around us! We're breathing it right now, and air, like everything you can feel or that takes up space is made of matter. That's what scientists call just stuff. Everything is made of matter, the parachute, the air, the ocean, you, me, everything, and since air is made up of matter, when you walk through the air, you're actually pushing matter out of the way with every move you make. But, here's the thing, that matter is pushing back on you, too. You probably don't feel it when you're just walking around, but when you start running you might feel it a little bit; and, when you start to go even faster, like when you're speeding around on your bike, woah! That feeling is the air pushing against you.

And, this force has a name. It's called drag. Drag is the force of the air pushing back on you or on anything when it moves, and the faster something is moving, the more drag it feels. So, you don't really feel the force of the air as you walk around, but have you ever held your hand outside the window of a moving car? That's some serious drag! You can feel the air pushing against your hand, and it can be hard to keep it still. But, have you noticed that it's easier to hold your hand flat, like this, than it is to hold your hand so your thumb is pointing up, like this? Why do you think that might be? It's because when you hold your hand straight up, like this, more air is bumping into you hand. That means more drag. But, when you put your hand flat, like this, only a small part of your hand is pushing the air out of the way. There's less of your hand for the air to run up against, which means less drag. So, your hand can glide through the air more smoothly.

So, what if you're a skydiver jumping out of an airplane? How do you slow yourself down, so you can land safely. You want to do something that would make more air bump into you, and that's how a parachute helps. It makes more space for the air to run into, so it creates more drag. There's so much drag on the parachute, so much air pushing against it, that it slows down your fall, so you can land safely.

Now, a lot of other things experience drag, too. When a boat moves across the ocean, the water that pushed back against it is also making drag, and cars and trucks experience drag when they're driving down the highway. A little car feels less drag than a big truck, because it has less space for the air to push against it.

So, drag is the force that you feel when you're moving through something, like the air, and that something pushes back. It may slow you down, but it's what makes lots of things from skydiving to playtime with parachutes possible.

Thanks for joining us on SciShow Kids! Do you have a question about parachutes, force, or anything else at all? Ask a grownup for help, and leave us a comment down below or send us an email to and we'll see you next time!