I have started creating little challenges for my kids – quick tasks that get them thinking and practicing creative problem solving. The kids love these challenges, and they come with a lot of educational benefits. I also find that they are perfect for transitioning the kids from one task to another.
This bridge building STEM challenge that I created for the kids last night provided the perfect “bridge” from their gymnastics class to bedtime. Normally we get home, the kids start to play, and then they feel frustrated when their pretend play is interrupted just as they are starting to find their flow. This bridge building challenge took up just enough time that bedtime wasn’t rushed, and they felt like they had done something meaningful with the end of their day.
Bridge Building STEM Challenge for Kids
I gave the kids a very straightforward challenge: they needed to build a bridge that could support a single can of food. It was a fairly simple challenge, and the kids knew it! This allowed them to think about innovative designs – from Johnny’s use of a wedge-shape wooden block (above) to Lily’s bridge that was really more of a platform (at the top of this post). Emma went for a more traditional look, which allowed for speedy building and guaranteed success.
I described the challenge as we were leaving gymnastics to drive home, and it was fun to hear them brainstorm materials. Someone immediately suggested Magna-Tiles, which are a favorite toy in our home, but those were vetoed for their lack of stability. I would actually love to see them overcome that engineering problem, so I may make it a future challenge. Johnny picked wooden blocks because they can hold the most weight. His design might have been more complicated, but the blocks are upstairs and he had to carry them downstairs to build, so he stuck with a low number of pieces. Johnny had thought about using LEGO bricks, but decided that we didn’t have enough time to work with such small pieces. Emma and Lily both decided that LEGO DUPLO bricks would be easy to build with and plenty stable. I would like to have them try this again without the platforms.
There are many bridge building STEM challenges for kids – many of them quite challenging. Have you tried building a bridge using spaghetti and marshmallows – one that can bear weight? This simple challenge was one that I knew all of my children would be capable of doing. We needed a quick activity this time since bedtime was rapidly approaching, but you can also start an activity off very simply like this and then add additional challenges. Can your bridge hold two cans? Who can make the tallest bridge that still supports a single can? How about a bridge using a set number of blocks, or blocks paired with an unusual material (maybe fabric for the center)? The possibilities are endless!
Today’s post is part of the 28 days of hands-on STEM activities for kids series. I highly recommend checking out the other posts in this series. They are full of fantastic science, technology, engineering, and math learning for kids – that your children will adore.
Kids are natural-born engineers, and I am always looking for fun ideas to try with my children. If you have a activity you recommend, please let me know in the comments!