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Cardboard Engineering – STEAM for All Ages

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Have you got cardboard boxes lying around from items you’ve had delivered? Here’s a great engineering activity that will reuse some things from your recycle bin while giving your kids some engineering practice!

 

First, have your child create a plan for what they’d like to build. This planning stage helps kids organize their ideas and hypothesize what kinds of structures will be most stable. It also helps with their spatial reasoning as they need to translate between two-dimensional and three-dimensional creations.

child's cardboard engineering plan

 

Next, help your child cut and tape various pieces of cardboard together according to their plan. Emphasize the importance of trial and error. Some of your child’s ideas about how boxes and containers can go together may not stay standing. If your child gets frustrated, use this as an opportunity to discuss trying again, not giving up, and learning from what doesn’t work.

photo of child taping cardboard box

 

Cardboard is more difficult to cut than paper. Help your child if they need you to, but let them try first. Cutting cardboard will help strengthen their hand muscles, ultimately improving their small motor skills.

photo of child cutting cardboard box

 

Compare your child’s finished creation with their plan. Discuss how plans help us get started but also need to be fluid as we learn along the way.

photo of completed cardboard engineering project

 

Children of all ages can participate in this activity, with younger children creating simpler designs and older children using more complexity.

 

Looking for something to read to tie it together? Try one of these titles:

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

This classic picture book illustrates one little bunny’s imaginative uses of a box in a way that even very young children can enjoy.

Boxitects by Kim Smith (available on Overdrive and Libby)

This picture book encourages all kids to be makers, using whatever materials they prefer to come up with amazing creations!

Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius by Frank Asch

Alex uses cardboard and his amazing scientific imagination to create a spaceship in this beginning chapter book

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (available on Overdrive and Libby!)

All the kids in the neighborhood use old boxes to transform their ordinary block into a cardboard kingdom! This graphic novel is geared toward upper elementary readers and will inspire endless cardboard creations.

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