I work with over 100 3-6 year olds every day. And I love it! Kids at this age are so keen to learn and explore the world around them. This STEM challenge was a great kindergarten and preschool activity that encouraged planning and critical thinking.
Children love STEM challenges. They are hands-on and usually open ended. Typically I will give children the challenge and the materials they need and then let them start creating.
With this kindergarten and preschool STEM challenged, I wanted to do it a bit differently.
For this challenge I wanted to have kids try out some of the skills of architects. Instead of simply jumping into the challenge and building, I had children plan and design first.
This STEM challenge is a simple idea and can easily be done at home or in the classroom. It uses materials that you likely already have on hand and best of all, kids will love it!
- White Boards and Markers (Pencils and paper will work too !)
- Variety of Building Materials (Wooden blocks, building pieces, magnetic tiles, use what you have)
- Lots of Imagination!
Typically when you work with or have young children, you acquire quite a collection of toys or building materials. Since I was working with a lot of kids, I used a large variety of building materials. You do not need to use the same building materials as I did.
Simply use what you have.
For this activity, I challenged children to think like an architect. They needed to plan and draw before they started building. We started simple and I told everyone that they would be drawing a picture and then building it.
This was the challenge. It sounds very simple, but it proved to require a lot of planning and critical thinking
I showed children a variety of different building materials that I had for them to use. The specific type of material is not important, just having a variety is key. They needed to select one type of building material that they wanted to plan and then create with.
I then passed out white boards and markers and let them select what building material they wanted to use. Children who selected the same building material sat grouped together. With their white boards and markers, everyone began to draw.
Since the children that I work with are little, being able to draw some of the shapes of the materials was a challenge. I encouraged them to trace the materials onto their board or simply draw the basic shape of each object.
We started simple and I encouraged everyone to plan a creation that involved at least 5 pieces. Once everyone had a sketch/plan drawn, children started to build.
One of the challenges children had was that their picture was 2 dimensional, but they were building in 3D. As long as their building resembled their drawing, we called it a success.
After our initial challenge using at least 5 blocks, children then selected any object they wanted to build using the materials.
It could be a house, town or even a piece of furniture! The possibilities were endless! The challenge was that they had to do a little planning with a sketch first. Once it was drawn, they could build and bring their drawing to life.
After drawing and building a few times, some children began drawing from a birds eye view.
Other children began attempting to draw in 3D so that they had layers and blocks in the back and others in the front.
Some students drew only a little before building; however, others really enjoyed this planning stage. I was really impressed with how well everyone did to stop and think before they began building.
Once children had started their building, they also had the opportunity to go back to their plan/drawing and add to it or change it if they made changes as they built.
With STEM activities, there is always room for improvement and even professional scientists, engineers and architects are constantly learning and making changes in their work. That’s how we learn and grow.
All of the children loved building and creating their drawings. Adding this extra element of planning and architecture helps children understand a bit about the planning stage when building.
Construction workers don’t just start building and digging wherever they want, a plan has already been created and thought out.
Having this planning stage also allows children who may have an interest or talent toward architecture the opportunity to explore their interest.
I like the idea that everyone had the option of using any of the materials that they were interested in. Students were free to move from material to material during the period. They did however, always have to stop and plan before using a new material.
This activity was done over two, 40 minute periods. I wanted students to have enough time to actually build, but also time to explore the different building materials available.
I love the idea of planning before building and was impressed by how serious and focused everyone was during the activity.
Another interesting preschool activity or kindergarten challenge that could be done with these materials and white boards, is to have one child draw a sketch of an object.
Then, using the materials available to them, a second child then has to try and create the image the first child drew. It would be a great way to talk about how architecture and engineering is connected.
This activity is also a great way to teach geometry and 2 and 3 dimensional shapes. Being able to sketch basic shapes and be able to use them, hands-on, and visualize and create a 3D image using a picture is a great challenge for kids of all ages.
For More Hands-On Activities…
As a teacher, I love creating unique, engaging learning activities. As a parent, I love when my kids are screen free and having fun. Below are some of our favourite activities, and printables that you can use in your home or classroom.