• Sarah Caughron

Toothpick Towers: Engineering with Snacks

It was a rainy day in January when we did this activity.

What a great way to use up the leftover gingerbread house treats!

But, you can do this with just about anything snack or food into which you can stick a toothpick (think: cheese cubes, blueberries, marshmallows, gummies, etc.)


Note: This content originally appeared on a website I developed and managed in 2015. Photos and content are original and will be updated in the forthcoming months.


This activity is too simple, but that is the beauty of it! This is perfect toddler science, but I've done this activity with middle schoolers that create elaborate towers with trusses and imaginary elevators, so don't assume you can't extend this activity to older students.


Target age groups: Toddler - Middle School

Duration:Set up - less than 5 minutes; Play - 15 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on how creative your engineer gets!


Supplies:

Small marshmallows

Wooden toothpicks

Gum drops

Plate or work surface


This activity is pretty self-explanatory. I offered up the supplies to my (then) almost-4-year-old, and he intuitively went to work making structures.


He was very excited to have marshmallows and gumdrops as his medium, and he snacked as he constructed.


What great fine motor skill practice!


But, a word of caution, toothpicks are sharp and marshmallows and gumdrops are small and chewy. ALWAYS supervise your children!


Examples of finished structures: a cube house and triangle



While we worked, we talked about which was stronger and easier with which to build: a gumdrop or a marshmallow? It was fun watching his wide-open toddler brain create many different combinations by making creative choices about how and where to use the materials to create structures. He even put 2 toothpicks together because he said, "this makes it super strong." Prompt your child to make PREDICTIONS, ask QUESTIONS, and make OBSERVATIONS to formulate CONCLUSIONS based on the parts of the scientific method. Even the tiniest scientist is capable to making brilliant assessments of inquiry!


Extensions:

Try this activity with different-sized marshmallows. You can try with other materials, too, like drinking straws, chop sticks, plastic toothpicks, and other candies and fruit (blueberries, etc.).

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