by Alix Tonsgard

Spring can bring a lot of rainy days that keep us indoors. While the Museum is an excellent place to bring your budding engineer to hone their developing capacities and skills, sometimes we all could use a few ideas to keep in our back pockets for ways to occupy little hands and minds at home. Next time you are stuck in the house give these engineering challenges a try.

Suggested Materials:

  • Plastic cups – 3 oz or the larger solo cups
  • Jumbo craft sticks
  • Wood cubes, small blocks, bottle caps from water bottles, etc.

Challenge #1:  Create a structure using one of the small items as its base.
If it seems too tricky here is a secret – it works best when you add pieces on both sides of your structure simultaneously.

Challenge #2: Create the tallest possible structure this time using any size base you want.

Challenge #3: Balancing act – Create a structure that has something sticking out of it in an impressive way. Take it one step further and see how many things you can balance on whatever is sticking out.

Challenge #4: Build something that uses only one cup as its base.

The challenge for the adult – let the children fail! The amount of learning that takes place when a child does not achieve their intended outcome is immense! Think about it – when they fail they have to evaluate the situation, think about what went wrong, come up with alternate solutions, test the new solution, and so on. This all requires higher-level thinking and strengthens their ability to think critically, creatively, and be strong problem solvers.

To raise your play IQ, visit my blog at dupagechildrens.org/blog.

Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.