Need educational activities for kids to stay busy and engaged for long periods of time? Part engineering experiment and part artistic exploration, structure building can be accomplished using everyday items from the kitchen, linen closet and recycling bin. Kids won’t likely be bored while creating unique and interesting structures of all sizes.
Building Structures into Geodesic Shapes
Geodesic shapes such as cubes and pyramids will result when the building materials are long tubes and squishy connectors. Great combinations for building geodesic shapes are:
- Dry spaghetti noodles and mini marshmallows, Plasticine or play dough ( kids can roll it into balls)
- Toothpicks and mini marshmallows, gumdrops or bag of frozen peas
- Plastic straws and large marshmallows
Note: When using straws, add a pair of kid safe scissors to the building area in case kids want to cut the straws into shorter lengths.
Building Structures with Food Boxes
Before recycling food boxes that once held crackers, cereal, pasta, etc. save them for a month and you’ve collected some gigantic building blocks. Either use the boxes “as they are” or cover the ends in duck tape for extra sturdiness, if you’d like for kids to use them for a few weeks.
Kids will enjoy building structures and tall buildings that reach to the ceiling and require the help of a chair to stack more boxes. Parents, understand that knocking down the blocks may be an important part of the “play” for children.
Building Structures: Indoor and Outdoor Tents
Parents, toss some fun tent building supplies into the middle of the floor or backyard and challenge your kids to build a structure they can climb into. Kids may spend up to an hour working on a magnificent creation and afterward they’ll spend even more time crawling through the tent, hosting a tea party inside the tent, and finding other fun things to do inside their secret tent walls.
Blankets, sheets and play parachutes work great as tent materials. Small tables and chairs can hold up the tent. Clothespins, ribbons or string can help secure a tent to clotheslines, branches and chairs. Other interesting tent building materials: brooms, laundry baskets, cardboard boxes.
Secrets to Keeping Kids Engaged with Building Structures
- Don’t Build for Kids: As much fun as it looks, don’t be a helicopter parent and do educational activities for kids. The education comes from children experimenting on their own and discovering concepts instead of having someone tell or show them.
- Don’t Show Kids How It’s Done: The idea is for children to figure out and problem solve on their own. Some parents may have a need to “show kids” the neat things that can be done with building materials, but educational theories recommend otherwise. Piagetian and constructivist theory recommends that children construct their own knowledge and learn from their own mistakes rather than have adults “show” kids the “right” way.
- Ask Questions to Help Kids Solve Problems: It can be helpful to pose questions to kids such as, “What do you think would help hold down the edge of the tent?” or “What could you do to help your tower stay up instead of fall down?”
- Let Kids Experience Mistakes and Failure: Kids will learn more by repairing their own mistakes and problem solving to “make things work”.
Building structures doesn’t require an expensive set of materials purchased from the toy store. Some of the best educational activities for kids use supplies on hand in your home. Executing an artistic or logistical plan requires creative thinking skills and cooperation skills if kids are working together. Also the task of building structures develops problem solving skills, spatial relationship concepts, planning skills and scientific encounters with gravity.
Photos by KayRay on Flickr and by Kelly Pfeiffer