Getting your kids to turn away from the iPad and play with hands-on activities can sometimes be a challenge. After a long week, it’s often just not possible to have ready-made projects that will excite your kids at your fingertips. However, you can stock up on relatively inexpensive and simple ways to engage with your kids on specific topics. If you have access to a printer and some household items, you can create some educational activities and experiments right in your own home!
Spending quality time with your kids can also help you build meaningful connections and introduce STEAM ideas to young learners. While hands-on play is fun, it’s also a great way to work with your kids on practical projects that will help them think and learn about the world. One great way to do that is to set them on tasks that involve building and construction.
Construction-themed play can be even easier with the help of some printables to accompany your projects. Check out these printable building activities for kids from BigRentz to create your own afternoon of construction games and projects.
Benefits of construction-themed play
Educational: Construction activities are excellent for coordination as well as learning concepts in math, geometry, physics, engineering, and creative play.
Easy to assemble: There are many building activities that can suit any age group and are inexpensive. Plus, these activities are usually simple to create out of things that you may already have in your home.
Building confidence: In addition, many kids just love the concept of construction and the idea of making something out of composite parts. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride in something they’ve built.
Creativity: Giving them the space and tools to build their own world allows children to gain creative depth, deepening their imagination and ability for high-level narrative thinking.
Problem Solving: The lesson of trying and failing and trying again is one that every child can learn. Building allows your children to learn how the world works and what patterns are created in construction.
Tools are cool: The idea of how tools function can be fascinating for children. Let’s face it, gravity and magnetism are pretty amazing when you just learn about them. Even simple machines like levers and pulleys, particularly how these demonstrate cause and effect, can keep kids occupied for hours. Many kids also love to learn about more complex tools and construction machines like excavators and cranes too. Teaching concepts like hydraulic power might seem out of the reach of small children, but there are simple lessons that can show them how things work that will excite their curiosity.
Projects for preschoolers:
Even very young children can be excited about the foundations of construction. Their natural curiosity and desire to constantly learn will give them the ability to connect to a well thought out lesson.
Making shapes with marshmallows
Marshmallow anything is a great motivation for most kids. They’re fun, squishy and can be eaten afterward so they make for a great building material. For this simple activity, you can make shapes with just marshmallows and toothpicks.
With this project kids can learn:
- An introduction to shapes and angles such as squares and cubes, rectangles and pyramids.
- How to build larger structures from smaller ones.
- How things stack (or don’t stack)
Start with a template or drawing and have your child try to match the shape on the page. This helps them learn spatial relations. Use colored toothpicks to have them create patterns or even learn mathematical concepts like addition and subtraction — like when you subtract marshmallows by eating them.
Fun with Scissors!
Teachers emphasize cutting in classes because it helps with motor skills as well as is a fun way to see how you can create something new. All you need is a pair of scissors and a ground plan to make cutting into construction. The printable has easy lines to follow and construction cones to avoid to challenge your little one to cut along a fun zigzag. With some tape, you might also create cutouts with paper that you can build into boats, planes, spaceships and more.
Building with nuts and bolts
Make learning to count more fun with construction materials. Use nuts and bolts as number markers to teach children numbers, let them understand addition and subtraction, and give them an easy way to learn to count by twos.
Machine matching game
Is there anything better than playing pretend with your little ones? Take a list of construction equipment and what they do, then act out the actions of digging, hauling, or scooping. Have your kids memorize what each vehicle does and perform the matching action. This is silly and fun but teaches memorization in a unique way.
Activities for Kindergarten – 2nd Grade
Children at this age can start to understand a bit more about how to use tools to construct their own worlds. Give them the opportunity and materials necessary to let their creativity run wild. You can also begin to introduce some real-world examples of things like blueprints and step-by-step instructions.
A good neighbor
Talk to your kids about what elements make up a house and then have them draw the house of their dreams. Cut and glue those houses to cardboard pieces to make them stand up and then start construction on a neighborhood with cardboard streets and signs.
Hammering in syllables
As I’m sure you already recognize, kids love hammering. Get some use out of this tendency with a few legos or duplos and a toy hammer. Have your kids construct brick towers that match the number of syllables in a word (or letters in a word) then have them hammer that number of bricks together.
Match the tools
Build memory skills and demonstrate how each tool works to teach your kids about common household tools. During your next DIY repair, have your child assist you by getting the tool from your toolbox and show them how to use it in real life.
Play ideas for 3rd – 5th Grade
At this stage you can get even more complex with your construction activities, bringing some more robust scientific ideas into play.
Lego building challenge
Legos are hugely popular for good reason, building complex interlocking brick models is really fun for kids. Make goals for your kids and have them build something they dream up (like their perfect house) or something specific from a template. This helps them problem solve and get proficient in understanding how to construct new things.
Kids love to imagine what their ideal house would have. Print out a simple schematic and have them design their future abode, complete with robots if they want.
Build a bridge
The classic spaghetti bridge project is one that can be really fun for you and your kids to connect with. With a design plan, you can learn about tensile strength and things like weight and force. Test the bridge you build with weighty objects to see how much it can take before it starts to crack.
Construction and engineering skills will always be important for future generations. Introduce some STEAM learning ideas to your kids at any age to see if they have an interest in or natural skill for building, designing or constructing. Give them a head start and help them develop a love of math, science, and creating new worlds through construction activities.