Mini Engineering Challenges

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Here we are, once again, on the 2nd Thursday of the month!  I’m not quite sure where March went, to be perfectly honest with you!  But, we did some awesomely fun mini engineering challenges in March… so here are some new ideas for you to try with your little engineers!

apr 9 building w bristle buildersWe love our Bristle Blocks!  If you don’t have a set of these, you can definitely purchase them on Amazon here (Battat Bristle Blocks Basic 112 Piece Set Building Kit – affiliate link, thank you!).  Bristle blocks are fabulous for so many reasons, but Becca really enjoys the way they feel – as a sensory seeker, she will sit and rub these blocks while she’s thinking about where to put them.  They just feel really neat in her hands.  Many times, I just let her build whatever, but sometimes I’ll say “see if you can build a ______” and give her an idea.  It is fabulous to let your little engineer free play with blocks and building materials, but it’s also a wonderful idea to give her a specific task to focus on – it puts her brain into the mode of needing to solve a problem, and figure out how to best complete the task at hand.  So next time you get out the bristle blocks, try some of these fun things as building challenges:

  • boat
  • car
  • house
  • rocket
  • dinosaur
  • school

apr 9 construct a city

Becca loves to build cities.  Who knows, maybe someday she’ll be a civil engineer and work for some large city, or be an architect who designs skyscrapers.  I love that the sky is the limit for her.  And all of the activities we do encourage her to grow and play in new and different ways.  She loves the wooden blocks that my dad made for me when I was a kid, and she plays with them frequently.  (If you see the apples on some of them and wonder about that, check out this post from last fall about our Ten Apples Up on Top activity – she still enjoys doing that, and anytime I mention taking the apples off, she gets very defensive of the apples!  HA!)  But anyway, if your kids don’t have a wonderful set of wooden blocks, there are some fabulous ones available on Amazon – try this set: Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks. (aff link, thank you!)

So when your kiddos are building with their wooden blocks, free, imaginative play is awesome, but you can also take it to a different level by creating a challenge for them – see if they can create a variety of structures.  Becca loves to build towers with her blocks, so I asked her one day, “well, how about if you build a city this time?”  (She typically builds cities only with her Duplos.)  She had so much fun creating roads and buildings and even decided where each person in our family would live and work, where the park and school and church were located… she really got detailed with it!  I would definitely encourage you to play blocks with your kids and challenge them to build a city!  See what fabulous ideas they come up with!

apr 9 creative play with straws

Becca loves straws.  She’s fascinated with them – not only in their function, but also in the various ways she can play with them.  The other day, she decided on her own that we could “probly” make a rainbow with them, but informed me “I’m gonna need some major help.”  So I obliged, gladly!  She knew the rainbow started with red on top, so we found all the red straws and laid them out, then we talked about each color and figured out how to place them inside of each other.  When she was done, she declared “George is the treasure under the rainbow!” and proudly placed him underneath.  That made me smile so big.  This girl has a heart of gold.  And she really does cherish her little friend.

Encourage your little engineer to play with straws.  Remember that building doesn’t always involve making a 3d structure – but also can be a fabulous 2d construction as well.  We’ve made several other straw pictures since then – we’ve built a house, a pirate ship, a dinosaur, some clouds, and an airplane.  I love how so many of the STEAM subject matters overlap each other!  This project is clearly engineering AND art… as is our next idea!

apr 9 mini create a firetruck


I’ve mentioned previously how much Becca LOVES the Amazon show, Creative Galaxy.  She watches it on her Kindle regularly.  She has seen each of the 9 episodes at least 9 times, if not 20.  In one of the shows between the shows (where real kids make art), they use recycled materials to build items.  One of the ideas they mention but don’t build is a fire truck.  So, Becca got it in her head that she wanted to build a fire truck!  She told me the materials she wanted to use to make it, and I obliged.  I held the hot glue gun, but she placed each item where she wanted it, and did the art work to draw the windows and headlights.  She even determined she wanted the ladder to stick up like it was going up to a house to help someone.  So, we figured out how to do the glue so that it would dry sticking up into the air.

I loved so much that she came up with this project on her own, and that I took the time to make it possible for her.  So many times it’s easy for us to hear an idea that our kids have and say there isn’t time, or we don’t have the supplies.  But this was a project that really benefited us both – I was amazed to see what she is capable of and how her brain works, and she was given a confidence boost because Mommy believed in her idea and helped her make it a reality!

What we used: an old puffs container, fruit pouch lids, straws, hot glue, Sharpee marker, scissors (she cut the straws into pieces – fabulous fine motor practice!)

I’d love to see your kids make items from recycled materials!  Please share your finished engineering feats on my Facebook page anytime and label them #engineeringrocks!

Looking for more engineering ideas for your kids?  Each month on the 2nd Thursday I post Mini Engineering Challenges!  Check out my Engineering page for links to my previous months, and visit next month for more new ideas including a Lego game your family is gonna love!

Author: travelwchristy

I am a SPED Paraprofessional who is mom to three beautiful children, a wife to a fabulous man, and blessed beyond compare!

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