Do your kids like to design cities or build towers? Building is one of my kids’ favorite activities. They love using a variety of materials to see what they can create. Today I’m sharing how we incorporate pretend play into our STEM building projects.

Engineer a City

Engineer a City

We used the City Engineering and Design Building Set to begin our play. Aiden (age 7) started by building what was on the front of the box.

City Engineering and Design

The set includes activity cards with design challenges and engineering problems to solve. Building a zip line was the first challenge Aiden selected. The activity card has you build two buildings. It states that you are at the wrong build and must quickly get to the other building. “Can you design a zip line to carry you across?” The back of the card includes possible solutions to the challenge. It also poses questions about the design. “Which of the solutions above would provide a faster ride?”

Aiden designed his own zip line after seeing the suggestions. He modified the ideas shown and came up with the zip line below.

Engineer a City STEM

Incorporate Pretend Play

Next, we added in the Snap-n-Learn™ Counting Elephants. I challenged Lily (age 3) to help the elephants get from one building to the other using the zip line. She thought it was a lot of fun watching the elephants zip down the line.

Engineer a City STEMWhile she was playing with the elephants, I took the opportunity to ask her about the numbers on them. I asked questions like:
• What number is on your elephant?
• Can you find the number 7?
• What color is the elephant with the number 2?
• Can you count the elephants?

This activity was a great way for my kids to play together. The City Engineering and Design Building Set is recommended for ages 5 and up. Aiden built the city and then he and Lily played with it. They took turns moving the people and elephants around the buildings. They made up stories as they played.

Keep it Going

The next challenge Aiden undertook was to build a crane.

Engineer a City STEM

After he built the crane, he and Lily got to work lifting elephants.

Engineer a City STEM

There is so much learning going on along with their play. Building the set works on lots of STEM skills – problem solving, following directions, sequential thought, critical thinking, spatial relationships, creativity, and early engineering. Fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, number recognition, and counting are also being developed here.

What’s your child’s favorite building activity? How can you add in some additional learning to the play?

About the Author: Trisha

Trisha is a science educator and stay at home mom to three. She’s the creator of Inspiration Laboratories, a blog dedicated to encouraging learning through creativity and play.