Building activities engage problem solving and creativity in kids of all ages. Young kids improve hand-eye coordination as they manipulate the building materials. Older kids learn about engineering principles as they experiment with building their creations. Plan age-appropriate activities with a variety of building materials to challenge your students.
Construction Learning Center
Learning centers are often part of the preschool and early elementary classroom. A construction or building center gives the young kids a chance to explore freely with various building materials. Stock the center with age-appropriate materials, such as large wooden blocks or cubes that lock together. Large blocks work best for preschool children, because they are easier for small hands to grasp and control. Another building center option is a tool center. For toddlers and young preschoolers, use plastic toy tools. Older preschoolers and elementary students can handle basic tools, such as hammers and screwdrivers, with adult supervision. Set out sanded pieces of wood with predrilled holes for screws.
Emphasize problem solving with a building-replica challenge. Start by building a structure with the selected building material. Take a photo of the structure, or draw a detailed diagram that shows the specific blocks and how they go together, similar to the instruction manual for building block sets. For large cardboard blocks, tape the outline on the wall. Add tape lines to show the individual blocks in the structure. The kids recreate the structure using the diagrams, photos or tape lines on the wall. This activity forces the kids to focus on the details to piece together the blocks to create an exact replica.
Skip the block route by using alternative materials to create building challenges that allow for creativity and problem solving. Challenge the kids to build different types of structures, such as a bridge that will hold up when placed between two desks or the tallest building that won't fall. Choose a variety of building materials, such as marshmallows, uncooked spaghetti noodles, pieces of foam, wooden craft sticks, toilet paper tubes, plastic cups and pipe cleaners. The kids might connect pieces of foam with craft sticks or marshmallows with uncooked spaghetti noodles, for example.
A woodworking project gives kids a chance to build something that lasts longer than block structures. You can get kids' woodworking kits to make things such as birdhouses, catapults and wooden cars. The kits come with all of the necessary pieces included, making them easy to use in the classroom. Kids also practice following the directions that come with the kits. If you plan your own project, cut all of the wood ahead of time. A birdhouse is a basic structure that kids can handle. Help the kids nail the pieces together to build the birdhouse. Let the kids sand and paint the wood to finish the birdhouse.
Ramps and Tracks
For a different type of building challenge for older students, have the kids build ramps or tracks for marbles or other small objects. Toilet paper or paper towel tubes work well. You can also roll tubes from construction paper. Cut the tubes into sections to create the desired ramps or tracks. Tape the pieces of tubes on the wall at angles so that the marbles roll down them. The kids can make turns on the tracks by taping the tube sections in different directions and angles, matching up the ends of each section. They may need to adjust some sections if the marble gets stuck at the turns.
- Photo Credit Colin Walton/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images
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