Toothpick structures are a fantastic, low cost and easy STEM challenge that can keep kids busy for hours. We actually used cocktail sticks, but you could also use straws or spaghetti.
I set the children a challenge to build a structure that would hold a chocolate egg off the ground.
Toothpicks or cocktail sticks
There’s no instructions for this one, apart from the building a structure that:
Stands up with no extra support.
Only uses the materials above.
Can hold the a chocolate egg without falling over.
These are the structures my children built, what do you think?
After the eggs we tested to see if our structures could also hold chicks and rabbits, these were lighter so it wasn’t much of a problem.
Things to think about
Shapes are a good thing to think about when building structures like this. We found a square shape with extra support in the form of triangles made a stronger structure.
Triangles, arches and domes are all strong shapes and are used by engineers to make structures strong. Next time you see a bridge count how many different shapes you can see.
Imagine a square made from straws, if you push down it with fold down on itself, but a triangle won’t collapse unless one of its sides break. Any force applied to a triangle is evenly distributed from the vertex to the base, this means triangles are much stronger than squares.
Can you build a tower that is at least 10cm high? Or 20 cm high?
How about a tower that can hold 3 chocolate eggs?
Can you build the chicks a new house? We used blueberries for this one.
What else could you use to stick the toothpicks to each other? How about mini marshmallows?