When most of us think of science for kids we think chemistry and biology projects, but why not incorporate a little engineering for kids in there instead? I actually think building structures with kids is one of the most engaging science activities you can do together; kids love building things and they won’t even realize they are doing a fun science project at the same time! Plus this project takes just minutes to set up using materials you probably have on hand (did you save those packing peanuts from all your online purchases this year?). And be sure to scroll to the end of the post where we of course DESTROY said structures with a simple trick!
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Science for Kids: Packing Peanut & Toothpick Structures
- Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
- Spray Bottle filled with Water
- Step One Set up the invitation to play. Put out a bowl of peanuts, a handful of toothpicks, and a shallow tray for the kids to build their structure on.
- Step Two Start building! My kids loved sticking the peanuts on the toothpicks to make all kinds of “sculptures” for lack of a better word. I know there were some swords and bugs in there…. Depending on the age of your child you might need to begin the base of a peanut structure so they can see how it works and stands up.
- Step Three Destroy it! Okay now that you and the kids have built a structure it’s time to knock it down! There is nothing kids love more than taking things apart, am I right? Take out a spray bottle filled with water and let your kids spray the packing peanuts! The biodegradable peanuts will start “melting.” If you are building this over a tray, you can simply empty the dissolved peanuts and toothpicks into the trash. No mess. Or do your eco duty and save the toothpicks for another project!
You’re done! This is a very easy science activity for kids you can throw together in minutes. And a perfect little break from all the Xbox playing my son has been doing since Santa brought us that fine treasure of a toy…you can’t see the grimace on my face, can you?
Antonio Gaudi. I could have picked any number of structural engineers and architects to feature in this post but by far one of the most inventive architects who used structures in unique ways was Antonio Gaudi, a Spanish architect from the 19th century. His major masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona began construction in 1882 and is still being built today. That’s right you heard that correctly, it is expected to be finished in 2026! Gaudi based many of his buildings and particularly parts of the Sagrada Familia on hyberbolic geometry. Okay we’re not building hyperbolic structures here with toothpicks, but we are exposing kids to the wonders of structural geometry, and they won’t even know it!
If your kids enjoyed building structures don’t miss our Paper Building Blocks. They passed the two Oreo test, can they hold more? You can also explore balance and dynamics by making a Recycled Bird Feeder Mobile! And if you have a budding architect on your hands be sure to read this post by my friend Jeanette at Artchoo about the power of Legos to inspire young architects.
Moral of this post….science for kids does not have to be complicated! Setting up a simple structures project is an easy way to sneak a little engineering for kids into their day, without them even knowing it! And the best part? Destroying said structures! Who doesn’t like watching your hard work dissolve into a puddle of gooey slime?
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