Kids love to see how things work and craft their own creations, so building is a fun pastime for parents to share with their little ones to have fun and help them develop. Of course, actual construction and real tools can be dangerous for children, so there are only certain kinds of building activities that would be suitable for playtime. Some games like Jenga focus on structural design and challenge you to build properly to maintain the stability of the blocks. Even without a designated board game or special building materials, kids tend to find ways to build things out of whatever they can find. Thus, to keep their hands out of mischief and give yourselves something cool to do as a family, consider the following seven kinds of building projects that are kid-friendly:
1. Toy Boats
Building a toy boat is a good lesson for a child because it teaches them patience and the feeling of building something that is functional and fun to use. Boat building is also an excellent way to teach creativity, as there’s really no limit to the kind of materials and objects you can assemble into a boat or raft. In fact, almost anything will float as long as it has the right density. If your kid is old enough to understand basic math and science, you could show them how to use a density calculator to see if an object is capable of floating.
2. Paper Planes
Anyone can build a paper plane with a bit of instruction and spare time, and there are literally hundreds of different models to build, ranging in difficulty from a few simple folds up to many minutes of careful crafting, so it’s a good mental exercise. Plus, there are a lot of origami and paper plane books and tutorials that will give you countless hours of challenging fun that gradually progresses from basic to advanced. The ongoing learning curve ensures that young people continue to take an interest in the hobby as they delve into building increasingly complicated planes.
3. Sand Castles and Sculptures
While you might be thinking of sand castle building as a very simplistic and childish activity reserved for the beach, it’s actually a widely practiced form of sculpting that has garnered attention from the media and become the center of competitions in recent years. A simple sandbox in your backyard can provide a platform for your child to create small sand sculptures. Sand is lightweight and flexible, so it’s easy for children to work with and mold into any kind of shape.
4. Lego and Block Houses
Building with blocks is straightforward, but it’s a good starting point for younger children and it’s not as complicated as folding paper or building boats, or as dirty as playing in the sand. Plus, Legos come in all sorts of building kits that can be used to create anything from houses to vehicles and even transforming toys. Every toddler should have a set of blocks and Legos to play with to exercise basic logic and reasoning skills. Consider using blocks of many different sizes to make it easier for them to visualize and carry out abstract building decisions.
5. Card Houses and Origami
Building a card house seems easy because there isn’t any heavy lifting involved, but the builder has to be very precise with their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and the card placement. This can make it a tricky challenge for younger ones, but most kids over the age of 8 should be able to build a basic card house, and from there it’s just a matter of duplicating and stacking to build larger structures. A fun game to play is to stack cards against each other to see who can build the highest card house. Each player stacks three cards per turn, taking turns continuously until one of the houses falls – the player with the most cards stacked wins. You could also add the rule that the loser has to pick up all of the fallen cards, or the amendment that a player has to stack more than three cars in their turn if they roll a certain dice combination.
6. Dog Houses and Bird Houses
When your kid is ready to tackle a more serious arts and craft project, then you might want to consider working with wood to build a dog house or bird house. These small structures are easy for kids to work with and since all the parts are small, there isn’t any risk associated with lifting heavy boards or working with power tools. There are many ready-to-assemble kits that you can put together with your kids as a fun lesson on how to build a small house. Plus, if you don’t yet have a dog or bird, this would be a nice accompanying gift to compliment the gift of a pet, and putting a bird house in your yard provides an opportunity for bird watching. You could also join forces with your kid to build a bird feeder or fountain while you’re at it.
7. Miniature Collector’s Cars, Planes, and Trains
Mini collector’s vehicles, houses, planes, train sets, and other objects that require assembly are great building lessons and gifts for kids. A train set or a build-it-yourself airplane that actually flies will give your kids hours of entertainment even after they’re done building. These are a great way to encourage your kids to take on challenging building projects and to learn more advanced concepts of building and engineering. They also help kids strengthen their imagination by giving them moving objects to play with, as well as the accomplished feeling that comes with building something they like to play with.
Teaching the Art of Building
If you really think about it, building is an art form and a science all in one. Letting kids build things teaches them the basics of physics and helps them develop better coordination, and spatial reasoning, so make it a family pastime and you’ll be reward with smarter and more productive offspring.
Tree house image by ShutterStock.