Building Activities

Here are two more Building activities for children ages 3-7 (or download several more activities here). All activities adapted for and from Where Does My Shadow Sleep? A Parent’s Guide to Exploring Science With Children’s Books:

Building With Blocks
You and your child combine blocks into a variety of shapes and structures.

STEM connections
Asking scientific questions
Recognizing patterns and relationships by talking about the blocks, their positions and their structures
Comparing and measuring
Using building materials in different ways
Noticing problems and coming up with possible design changes

What’s Needed
Building blocks and drawing materials

How To Do It
1. Put out all the blocks and together begin exploring and building.

2. Talk together about what your child is building:
Tell me about your building.
Why did you use this block here?
I noticed you used two rectangles. How many different kinds of blocks did you use?
What do you think would happen if…?

3. Take time to look at and discuss each other’s buildings. Ask:
Which building is tallest? Shortest?
How can we measure our buildings?

4. Make drawings of your buildings to display for others to see.

Another Idea to Try
You and your child can copy each other’s designs by placing and naming blocks and following directions. First, build a simple structure of three blocks and describe it as you add pieces. When you are finished, ask your child to make the same shaped structure. (The colors might not be the same depending on how many blocks you have available.) Take turns building and copying each other’s structures, using more blocks for more complex structures.

Try this more challenging activity: Stand a book or a folder in front of where you are building to hide your structure from view. Build a structure and describe it as you build:

First I put down a rectangle block with a long side touching the table.
Next I place a cylinder on end in the middle of the rectangle.
Third I put a small triangle prism on top of the cylinder.

As you build and describe your building process, challenge your child to build this same structure without seeing it, only using the verbal directions. This can be much more difficult than using our eyes to see and copy a structure. Describing how to build a structure requires use of specific vocabulary relating to shape (square, triangle, etc.) and position (over, under, next to, etc.).

Building Towers
You and your child build towers as you combine and balance shapes.

STEM Connections
Asking scientific questions like
Recognizing patterns and relationships by talking about what you are building
Comparing and measuring
Designing and making models
Noticing problems and coming up with possible design changes

What’s Needed
Building blocks and drawing materials:

How To Do It
1. Talk together as you build the towers.
What shapes can we use to make a strong base?
How did you keep the tower from falling down?
What do you think will happen if….?
What do you think is the most important block in a tower? Why?
How can we find out if the tower is strong?

2. Measure your towers using standard and non-standard units and make a chart.
How many paperclips tall is your tower? How many plastic spoons tall? How many inches tall?

3. Make drawings of your towers and display them with your measurements.

Measuring, estimating and comparing are some of the math and science skills children practice when they explore and build with blocks.
How many blocks tall can I make this?
Which tower is the tallest? Which is the shortest?
Is the house for the dog taller or shorter than the house for the giraffe?
Will I need more or less straws for this bridge?
How long is your bridge?
Which bridge will hold the most pennies?
Let’s measure our house with paper clips. How many paper clips tall is your house? Is it taller than mine?