Engineering Week in February celebrates the different ways that engineering is part of our everyday lives, from our washing machines and cars to our mobile phones and toys.
Here we share some engineering projects your child might like to try at home. Challenge your mini Brunel to build these fantastic bridges and towers. How tall/wide/strong can they make their structure?
As well as being great fun, building towers and bridges can develop your child’s problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, hand-eye co-ordination, and social skills too!
Engineering Week Projects
For this activity you will need to raid your recycling for boxes of all sizes – Amazon boxes, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, orange juice cartons, tissue boxes – anything and everything. You could make thinner boxes more stable by stuffing them with crumpled scrap paper and taping them up.
Challenge your child to stack the boxes to build the tallest and most stable tower they possibly can.
You will need a selection of flat pebbles. If you are not planning a trip to the beach, you can buy pebbles cheaply online or from garden centres. The challenge is to build a tall and stable tower from the pebbles. This activity is best done on a flat surface.
There is a lovely picture book called Bring Me a Rock! which is all about a bossy grasshopper king who insists the other animals build him a high throne from pebbles. The tower is about to topple when someone wedges a tiny pebble between the rocks. You could share this story with your child as inspiration if you like. Free readings are available on YouTube.
Can your child make a pyramid from paper cups?
They could start by placing seven cups upside down in a row, then balancing six upside-down cups on top of those, five on top of those and so on.
Can your child build a taller or a wider pyramid?
This activity could be a great introduction to the Egyptians – those incredible engineers of the ancient world!
Clothes peg and lolly stick bridges
We love this fantastic bridge building project. You need clothes pegs, craft lolly sticks (available online) and bulldog clips. Books could be a replacement for blocks in this project.
Your child can have fun building different types of bridges and testing their strength by placing weights such as toys and books on top.
Index card bridges
To build index card bridges, you need a packet of index cards (or ‘record cards’) which you can buy online or in stationary shop. You also need some small stones (like gravel).
With this project your child might build a beam bridge, an arch bridge and an accordion beam bridge. The challenge is to find out which type of bridge can hold the most stones without collapsing.
Can your child say why they think a particular type of bridge is the strongest?
You will need two heavy books, paper, cellotape and some coins.
Make a bridge by placing the two books a distance apart and then putting a piece of paper on top to make a bridge. Put a coin in the middle of the paper bridge and see what happens. Your child will probably notice that the paper sags.
The challenge is for your child to think of a way to stop the bridge sagging in the middle. For instance, could they fold the paper to make the bridge stronger? Could they make a support for the bridge from scrap paper and tape?
Can they make a bridge that is strong enough to hold many coins without sagging?
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