This article is from the Model Rockets FAQ, by Wolfram von Kiparski with numerous contributions by others.
Model rocket manufacturers all recommend adult supervision for young
children (usually, those under 12). Many parents have had great success
introducing these children to model rocketry. Here are a few of the tips
and suggestions posted to r.m.r:
From email@example.com (C. D. Tavares):
Children under 10 or 11 do best in the hobby when a parent participates
actively with them. Introduce them to simple, skill-level-1 kits with
plastic fin units. Build yourself a rocket at the same time, then go
out and fly them together.
From firstname.lastname@example.org (Jack Hagerty):
My own experience with my son (now 5 1/2, we've been flying since he
turned 4) is not to expect too much sustained interest at a time. Even
though my son has a longer-than-normal attention span for his age
(he'll watch a whole two hour movie!) and loves the whole idea of
building and flying rockets, after 4 or 5 flights (approx. 1/2 hour)
he'd rather go play on the monkey bars at the adjacent school.
This is magnified if there are any kids his own age around (such as his
cousins that sometimes come with us).
Watching they should enjoy. Pressing the button they should enjoy.
Prepping with serious supervision. Building simple kits with some
supervision and a pre-launch check. There's a huge difference in
responsibility between kids. One thing to stress is that a lot of very
careful kids will get bored or get pressured by bored friends to do
stupid things when you're not around. I might not let kids have any
access to motors when unsupervised -- and there's no real reason why
that should cause them any trouble. It is possible to make safety fun,
you know. I think that's something that a lot of people miss -- if you
present things that way, it seems to work out. I don't have kids, but
I've got rocket launching friends who do.
From J.COOK@ens.prime.com (Jim Cook):
I've successfully built an Athena and an America with a 7 year old.
The body tube is pre-painted, the decals are self-adhesive, and they
like the gold or silver chrome nose cone. You can build it in an hour
or two - just let them run around and call them over to help periodic-
ally - "glue here", "cut here", "hold this". They feel it's still
their rocket and that they helped. Estes new E2X series may also be
similarly suitable, but I haven't tried, yet [ed. note: the E2X
series go together with plastic model cement, such as Testors, not
Estes' new E2X series is similar in construction to the Athena and
America - they can be built in an hour or two with kids.
Demo a range of motors. Go from 1/2A to A to B with a model to
show kids the difference.
Kids will invariably talk about launching them out of sight or
sticking a fireworks in them. Answer with, "yeah, but I wouldn't
want to wreck my model that I spent so much time building." Making
the kid answer forces him [or her] to think and teaches him [her]
to value his [her] possessions.
From email@example.com (Buzz McDermott):
When my 10 year old son and I started building rockets together about
2 1/2 years ago, we started with some of the level 1 Estes kits with
plastic fin units and nose cones, such as the Athena and Alpha III.
He has also built a couple of the Estes E2X series, which requires use of
plastic cement. He also likes the Quest Falcon (plastic fins) and Estes
Big Bertha (balsa fins) because they are both big enough to use C
motors and not loose the models.
My 7 year old daughter and I started building rockets about a year ago.
She prefers the Quest models with the colored parts. She also finds the
Quest parachutes, with their large adhesive connections for shroud
lines, easier to build. The Quest Falcon is a large, easy to build
model. Now she likes building some of the Level 1 kits with balsa fins.
She has built the Estes Alpha and Quest Sprint.
From firstname.lastname@example.org (John Stewart):
My daughter loves rocketry. She started when she was 3. Get colorful
rockets, build them yourself (e.g. the plastic Alpha III), and don't
fly them too high. (50-100' is more than fine) Let the child count to 5
(or try to!!) and push the button. Let them recover the rockets. Have
say, 5 to 10 rockets loaded, ready to go when heading out. Launch them,
and untangle/fix them either at the field, or at home later, depending
on the child's mood. My 4-3/4 year old daughter is looking forward to
launching, possibly this weekend. We spent a year in New Zealand, but
she still knew all about the rockets, the parachutes, the streamers...
From email@example.com.Virginia.EDU (Robert Sisk):
People interested in easy to build model rocket kits for the younger
crowd should check out QUEST models. Some of the parts are color
coded (centering rings, engine blocks, engine mount tube) and the fins
of some models are plastic. Some of the fins are supplied as a single
unit that you glue into place. Fast, easy, and with little or no
From firstname.lastname@example.org (Tony Wayne):
I reconstructed my launcher so that me 2.5 year can
launch the rocket. The launcher is homemade and uses a shorted
out 1/8 mini plug for the safety key. For my son, I attached an
8 foot loop of wire with each end attached to the poles of the
mini plug. In the middle of the wire loop is a film canister
with a push button. To launch the rocket I have to push the
button on the launcher and my son has to push his button too!
(When connecting the igniter to the launcher, I carry his
launch button with me.)
He's practicing counting by leading the countdown. (Q: Is
"bi-leven" greater than or less than 4?) He checks the airspace
as well. ("Look boss! De'plane.") Also when we go to the field,
my rockets are ready launch. For about 20 minutes things
happen fast. When we are done there are rockets littering the
field. We then fetch them. (He "flies" a few of them back to
the pad.) His mom has to come too as diversion after fetching
so I can prep and go again.