Next time you tread on a piece of Lego or stumble over a wooden block, comfort yourself with the knowledge that these sharp-cornered enemies of the adult foot are a boon for the child's mind. Construction play leads future engineers, architects and builders into the world of STEM as they experiment with different shapes and techniques. These construction activities for kids can help them get started; little ones will love stacking towers in our Building Block Palace, while a popsicle-stick architectural wonder (see the Eiffel Tower project, below) will challenge older kids.

Problem-solving, spatial awareness, motor skills and imagination all come into play. The best part, though, is the confidence and sense of accomplishment children feel after building something with their own two hands. Here are some homemade projects to start with.

Bridge of Popsicle Sticks

Build a bridge using paddle pop sticks as a fun construction activity for kids

Part art project, part engineering lesson, this is a fun bridge-building construction activity for kids. Bridges are interesting because they can be as simple or as complex as you like. Show kids some iconic bridges – such as San Francisco's Golden Gate or the Sydney Harbour Bridge – and explain how various types of bridges work. Next, get set to create your own in miniature using popsicle sticks. Ours is a simple beam bridge, resting on two supports, but more complex structures can also be tackled. Why not work out how to make your own arch, truss or a cable-stayed bridge?

Step 1 Line up 11 popsicle sticks. Using a glue gun, stick two sticks down along the edges of the lined-up sticks. Repeat twice so that you have three separate panels.

Step 2 Cut two popsicle sticks in half with a diagonal cut. Flip one of the popsicle-stick panels over. Using a glue gun, stick the diagonally cut pieces onto the panel. They need to be glued on their shorter edge, with the diagonal cut hanging over the side of the panel. The diagonally cut edges will be the support for the sloping side panels.

Step 3 Glue the other two panels to the sloping diagonal cut of the popsicle sticks.

Step 4 For the bridge supports, glue three popsicle sticks into a triangle shape, then glue two popsicle sticks to the bottom corners of each triangle. Repeat to create a second support.

Step 5 Stand the supports up and glue them to the sides of the bridge.

What You’ll Need

Build a bridge using paddle pop sticks as a fun construction activity for kids

SEE ALSO: Fun Indoor Activities for Younger Kids to Play on Rainy Days

Playdough and Matchstick DNA

Build a DNA model with matchsticks as an educational STEM construction activity for kids

This craft idea is a double whammy. Not only do kids have to figure out how to construct this wavy double helix shape using matchsticks and playdough, they must also think about, well, the very nature of their existence! This 2D model is an excellent entry to a biology discussion, but if the concept of DNA is too advanced, the rolling of dough and arranging of matchsticks are excellent exercises in fine motor skills for small fingers.

Step 1 Pick out 30 matchsticks and arrange them in a rough double helix shape (two wavy lines overlapping, with lines joining them).

Step 2 Divide your playdough into three colours (we chose orange, blue and green). Rolling it between your hands, divide each colour into a pile of small balls and set them aside.

Step 3 Using your first colour, join the outer wavy lines of matchsticks together. One ball of playdough should be enough to join each segment.

Step 4 Once the outer lines are dotted with the first colour of playdough, join the inner matchsticks with balls of your second colour.

Step 5 Finally, take your third colour of dough and place one ball in between each ball of your first colour.

What You’ll Need

Build a bridge using paddle pop sticks as a fun construction activity for kids

Building Block Palace

Create a giant building block castle or palace as a fun construction activity for kids

From humble beginnings – a couple of geometric-shaped blocks – a fantastical palace grows in this block-based activity. Simple wooden building sets can be used to create complex structures that require kids to use their spatial reasoning, engineering concepts and motor skills, figuring out how to make a solid base for their construction to balance on and how high they can go before things become precarious. In fact, block play has been linked to everything from improved mathematical performance to greater language skills. Smaller kids will love sorting blocks by colour and shape, while older ones will amaze you with their handiwork

Step 1 Begin by using two large pieces to make two sides of a castle door. This will be centred at the front of your castle. Once these two pieces are stable, place an archway piece on top to complete your door.

Step 2 Use some smaller blocks to frame your door. Place them on your surface a little further back from the front. Remember to use the same-sized blocks on either side to make it even (or don’t! Go wild with how you want your castle to look). These blocks will help you mark out where the castle’s towers and walls will be.

Step 3 Use your blocks to build upwards by stacking them on top of each other. Be sure that each block you stack on is stable before you add a new layer (or you risk the castle toppling over).

Step 4 Continue stacking until you are happy with the height of each tower, then place a specialised block on top.

Step 5 Use any remaining large blocks to create a back wall. Line up each block in a row, then stack smaller blocks or any remaining shapes to create an interesting backdrop for your castle.

What You’ll Need

Build a bridge using paddle pop sticks as a fun construction activity for kids

Popsicle Stick Eiffel Tower

Build a replica of the Eiffel Tower as a construction activity for kids using popsicle sticks

Kids can bring a touch of Paris into the lounge room with a miniature Eiffel Tower. This project requires a bit of engineering to construct a sturdy tower, using braced squares and other construction techniques to ensure each section can support the one above. Your little project manager will need to visualise the whole and create the separate elements before it’s time to put it together. If they're old enough, they can use the hot glue gun themselves, learning to work quickly before the glue sets. And if the popsicle sticks are glued slightly askew? Well, teach them to say, “Non, je ne regrette rien!” (“No, I do not regret anything!”, if they ask).

Step 1 Create a base by lining up popsicle sticks. Secure them together with extra sticks glued crossways underneath.

Step 2 Start building up your tower, working quickly with the glue gun to attach sticks before the glue sets.

Step 3 Glue sticks horizontally and diagonally for both support and design. Cut or snap some sticks shorter as needed.

Step 4 Try and keep the four sides looking the same as you build them up and aim for them to angle to meet at the top.

Step 5 Once the sides have been completed, take one popsicle stick and adhere to the top to make the final point. Et voila!

What You’ll Need

Build a bridge using paddle pop sticks as a fun construction activity for kids

Click here to download step by step instructions as a PDF and to see some homemade projects.