If you have blocks, legos or anything that stacks in the house, I’m sure your child has tried to build something. Playing around with engineering ideas and principles helps kids to better understand the world around them and how things work (it’s an early introduction to the world of physics!)
This week’s Discover & Explore linky is featuring Build It: Ideas for Little Engineers to encourage kids to create, play and explore the concepts of engineering.
If you’re not sure how to explain the term ‘engineering’ to the kids, here’s a basic definition — Engineering is the branch of science and technology that focuses on the design, building and use of machines, engines and structures (thank you Mr. Webster).
We like to learn about new concepts by reading books and getting out to explore the new subject. Here are some wonderful books & resources that highlight engineering activities, simple machines and building concepts for kids!
Before I even get into the amazing book list that we have for you today — “What!” you say, “There’s something more important than the books?” — Yes, the first thing I want to share is a wonderful website that some brilliant minds engineered (yes, I did just go there) so kids are able to experience engineering!
This is like the old quote “a picture is worth 1,000 words” — giving kids an in-person, interactive experience is worth it’s weight in gold.
A Sightseer’s Guide to Engineering lists unique buildings, monuments, museums and structures by state so you can find one to visit that’s close to home. And in the lower right side of their homepage, they also have a great menu that allows you to search by type of engineering (for example, mining, aerospace, computer, etc) and also by category — under category, you can find museums, amusement parks and other locations that highlight engineering ideas.
Activity: Take an Observation Walk
You can also take a walk in your own city or area to find various shapes and types of buldings and structures. Introduce your kids to a bridge and ask them how they think it was built. Is it for people or vehicles? Show them the various shapes and designs of buildings and houses.
If you have any older architecture in your area, introduce them to columns and talk about how they support the building. Take a look at how various staircases are built — straight, circular, many levels. And if you happen to be near a construction site or are having any work done on your home, this is just a HUGE bonus as kids can see the inner workings (introduce them to what the inside of a wall looks like or what they might find under your floor at home).
If you happen to be on vacation this summer, think about the engineering of the rides at the amusement park, how monuments or buildings such as lighthouse were built or even how all those roads you drive on were engineered. I’ve always wondered about the details that went into designing & building Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World.
More Online Games & Activities
One of the websites that I would recommend kids visit is COSI’s guide to Simple Machines. This is a first stop for anyone who wants to understand more about engineering (and we have some great books and videos listed that showcase the idea of a simple machine). And the Museum of Science + Industry in Chicago has a great online game that kids can play to learn how these simple machines can be used.
Fans of PBS show such as Sid the Science Kids, Curious George and Fetch! will love these online games and engineering activities that connect with various episodes of their favorite shows.
This site also includes some great challenges for kids in junior high and high school based on the show Design Squad such as this Build a Crane out of Cardboard challenge.
Try Engineering also offers a collection of more than 30 online games and challenges that use engineering principles. Kids can design a parachute, fix a space station, design a rollercoaster, learn about compound machines and so much more!
Another wonderful PBS supported site is Building BIG — kids (and adults) can learn how bridges, domes, skyscraper, dams and tunnesl are built. TONS of great resources can be found here and it mirrors the kids books so it’s a great extension activity.
A wonderful site for girls is Engineer Girl. And it isn’t just for girls but it does highlight the opportunities for females in the field of engineering (which is really great since girls are under-represented in most of the science fields). The site offers interviews with engineers, a ‘try on a career’ section to learn about the varaious areas of engineering and some fun featured news & projects. A great site for tweens & teens.
Kids can also visit Greenville at the American Society of Civil Engineers site to learn about all the details & ideas that go into bulding a sustainable city. This is a wonderful site that teaches kids how lots of things much work together in order to create a town or city that will be beneficial for those who live there.
And if you have kids who are just crazy for Minecraft, an online games that allows players to create their own structures and worlds, don’t fret! There’s actually quite a bit of learning going on in the Minecraft world as kids build & create!
Books about Building
Ok, now for the books! And I’m including affiliate links for them so you can read all the details to see which are right for your kids.
Building Big by David Macaulay is the book we referred to above when we listed the great PBS Building Big website as an online resource. The author does a wonderful job at introduce kids to different types of materials and designs that are considering when people are building large structures. The book is definately for older kids (ages 9+) and has some great information about how bridges, arches and other cool items are made and also goes into details to discuss how some of these structures have failed and what engineers have learned.
Engineering the ABC’s: How Engineers Shape Our World is a great book for young engineers (ages 3 – 9). The books uses an ABC format to introduce a structure for each letter of the alphabet and describe how it was engineered. The drawings are really nice and the text can be used for kids of various ages.
Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test shows kids all of the details that go into creating these large structures. And there are so many types of bridges to learn about — which ones do you use and why? After reading all the in’s and out’s of how bridges are built, kids can try the hands-on experiments listed in each chapter to see what they can build. Good read for ages 6 – 12.
Building Our House is a story based on one family’s real life experiences. Adorable illustrations and real-life photos take the reader through the process of building a house from the ground up! Great for kids who wonder how their house was built and for families going through the building process (ages 3 – 8).
Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building is a marvelous account of an amazing historic event – building the tallest building in the world (at least it was for a while). Told from the point of view of a child, we are taken back to the 1920’s and follow along as 3,000 men construct a 102-story building in the middle of New York City. A great piece of historical fiction for kids ages 3 – 9 years.
And one being published soon that I’m very excited about is the The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story About the Six Simple Machines from Sylvan Dell Publishing. It’s really difficult to find a good book for younger kids about simples machines (there’s a few that I like but they only cover one or two of the simple machines). This story, about a boy and his grandpa who decide to build a fort in their backyard, looks to be a great resource for explaining the pulley, lever, screw, inclined plane, wheel and axle & wedge to young kids.
Discover & Explore: Building & Engineering with Kids
Have you played around with simple machines? Built a house of cards? Created an amazing Lego structure? We’d love to see how you build & explore engineering.
And make sure to head over the Fantastic Fun & Learning to see what type of engineering activities they are sharing this week.
June 19th – Summer Fun
June 26th – Patriotic Activities
July 3rd – Beach Fun
Please read the following guidelines for sharing:
- Share family-friendly posts related to the weekly topic — kids activities, crafts, recipes, nature outings, printables, etc.
- By linking up, you are giving me permission to share your post including one photo in our weekly feature post and on social media channels.
- Visit 2-3 other posts that have linked up, find some new ideas & meet new friends!
- If you’d like, grab a button for your post — we love to share and want to find lots of great activities to highlight for you!
The linky will be open for 2 weeks so feel free to come back and link up any new posts you do.
Each of the host blogs will be choosing a few great ideas to be featured in a round-up post and pinned the Discover & Explore Pinterest Board!