Construction play leads future engineers, architects and builders into the world of STEM as they experiment with different shapes and techniques. By introducing construction activities to your kids, you can open up their minds to a whole world of construction wonder.
Our series of construction activities for kids will offer more than an afternoon’s worth of play – these projects are multi-day, epic adventures in construction and, as an added extra, can teach children about our world. Kids will relish creating an architectural wonder like the Golden Gate Bridge (instructions below). Once they’ve conquered this, they can move onto the rest of our construction series, which are all perfect for school holidays or spread over several weekends, and include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a Mayan pyramid, and a Japanese pagoda. As a grand finale, our popsicle- and matchstick Eiffel Tower will challenge older kids (and perhaps their parents, too!).
The best part is the confidence and sense of accomplishment your kids will feel after building something with their own two hands. Happy building!
Construction Activities for Kids: The Golden Gate Bridge
Part art project, part engineering lesson, this is a fun bridge-building construction activity for kids. Bridges are versatile because they can be as simple or as complex as you like. Show your kids some iconic bridges such as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Singapore’s Helix Bridge or the Sydney Harbour Bridge and together you can research how various types of bridges work.
Next, get your kids set to create their very own miniature bridge using paddle pop sticks and pipe cleaners. Kids will need assistance in creating this 3D structure, but problem-solving, spatial awareness, motor skills and imagination all come into play.
Did You Know?
So named because it spans the Golden Gate strait – the entry to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean – the Golden Gate Bridge is renowned as a modern marvel of engineering and one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Designed by a team led by engineer Joseph Strauss (though many of his peers deemed it impossible), the suspension bridge had its grand opening in 1937, four years after construction began. To commemorate the event, Strauss wrote poems, including one called The Mighty Task Is Done.
Today, 10 million tourists walk the distinctively coloured bridge each year, and more than 2.2 billion vehicles have crossed it since 1937.
What You’ll Need
- Little Learner Chenille Sticks Red 100 Pack or several packs of Kadink Chenille Stems Assorted 40 Pack (pipe cleaners)
- Pieces of cardboard from a cardboard box.
- J.Burrows Comfort Grip Scissors 8"/203mm
- 3 packs of Kadink Craft Sticks Coloured 180 Pack (use the red ones)
- Kadink Low Temperature Glue Gun or Studymate High Temperature Glue Gun (depending on age)
- Kadink Low Temperature Glue Sticks 12 Pack or Studymate High Temperature Glue Gun Refills 10 Pack (depending on age)
- Faber-Castell Goldfaber Graphite Pencils 2B 3 Pack
- Studymate Stainless Steel Ruler 30cm
How to Make It
Step 1: Start by making the road. Lay two sticks down vertically, parallel to each other, then lay one stick horizontally across them. Make sure you leave the width of a stick overhang on either side and below the stick. Glue this stick to the vertical sticks and repeat upwards. There should be a small space between each horizontal stick and an even overhang on both sides. Stop about 1.5cm from the top.
Step 2: To build the length of the road, flip the piece you have completed so far and place two more sticks on the inside of the vertical ones and glue them down. Flip back over and continue to glue sticks horizontally down and stop again about 1.5cm from the end.
Step 3: Again, flip the piece you have completed so far and place two more sticks on the outside of the vertical ones and glue them down. Flip back over and continue to glue sticks horizontally down and stop again 1.5cm from the end. Aim to have about 24 paddle pop sticks that run the length of the road from pillar to pillar.
Step 4: Now construct two separate smaller road sections. Flip the long section of the road made in steps 2 and 3. Use a ruler to measure the width between the two sticks that would fit on the inside of the vertical sticks of the main road section.
Step 5: Lay down a stick horizontally and, using the measurement you took in step 4, make two “X” marks on the stick. This is where your sticks will need to be glued vertically, so they will fit into the main road section. Glue the vertical sticks down, then flip the road and continue gluing approximately nine sticks horizontally along the rest of the length, leaving about 1.5cm on one end only.
Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 to make the second smaller road section that will later attach to the main road section. Two smaller panels should now be completed. Set all three road panels aside for now.
Step 7: Next, build the towers. Glue three sticks together to create a U-shape, then add two more sticks on either side, making each side three sticks long. Close the rectangle with another horizontal stick at the top. Ensure you are gluing right at the end of the sticks to avoid any overhang.
Step 8: Repeat this process for the second tower.
Step 9: For each tower, you’ll need to create a cross-hatch ‘X’ pattern at the very bottom. Firstly, glue a diagonal going one way, then a diagonal going the other way on one side of the rectangle. Repeat for your second tower.
Step 10: Now create horizontal cross bars. Glue four sticks at even intervals in the open space above the diagonals. Line up your towers, side by side to ensure that you glue the cross bars at the same height on each tower. Flip both towers and, at the bottom of each, glue sticks going diagonally the other way across the ones that are already there to create two ‘X’s.
Step 11: Ensuring the criss-crossed section is at the bottom, glue the short edge of one tower to a flat rectangular piece of cardboard, which will act as a solid base to help the tower stay upright. Repeat for the second tower and leave to dry.
Step 12: Now create the bridge! Stand the two towers in your workspace, facing each other. Fit the largest piece of the road in-between the two towers by balancing each end of the road on the lowest horizontal paddle pop stick of each tower, just above the Xs.
Step 13: Slide the overhang of one of the smaller road panels under the main section of road so the sticking-out bits of the smaller section rests on the same horizontal paddle pop stick as the larger piece of road.
Step 14: Repeat for the other side.
Step 15: Create the cables using the pipe cleaners. Get two pipe cleaners and twist together to make one long pipe cleaner. Repeat this process so that you have two pipe cleaner cables.
Step 16: Attach the end of one pipe cleaner cable to a top corner of one tower, then scoop it down from one tower to the other and attach to the corresponding top corner of the other tower. Trim off the excess at the top of each end of the cable.
Step 17: Create the vertical cables. You’ll need to evenly space out 11 pipe cleaners along one side of the road. Adding one at a time, create a ‘hook’ at the bottom of a vertical cable and slide it between two paddle pop sticks in the road. The hook will help to secure the cable to the road panel.
Step 18: Straighten the vertical cable upwards and secure it to the hanging cable joining the towers by folding over the tip and twisting around the hanging cable to tighten. Trim off any excess.
Step 19: Repeat steps 17 and 18 for the remaining 10 cables, sliding them between every second paddle pop stick in the road before connecting them to the hanging cable.
Step 20: Wrap the end of a pipe cleaner to the corner of the top of a tower. Secure the other end of the pipe cleaners to the end of the road by creating a hook to secure it and sliding the pipe cleaner between the last two paddle pop sticks on the road. Repeat to attach another ‘cable’ from the other tower to the far side of the road.
Step 21: Repeat steps 16 to 20 to add pipe cleaner cables to the second side of the bridge.
Well done, you’ve just built your very own Golden Gate Bridge!