Bridges aren't simple structures that get people from one place to another. Teach your little leaner about the engineering marvels that are suspended above rivers, bays and other bodies of water with a bridge building project. Stretch your child's creative potential, while helping her to tackle more academic types of concepts such as math and science.
Projects for Preschoolers
Building projects aren't just for soon-to-be architects or older kids who have an interest in engineering. Your preschooler can create his own artsy bridges that will help him to understand the basics of construction. Your child can transform a paper bowl into a designed bridge. Help your child to understand that bridges straddle water areas, and start with a faux sea that he paints onto a piece of scrap cardboard. Turn a paper bowl over -- making the bottom face up -- and draw two parallel lines that are at least a few inches apart with a marker. Cut the "bridge" out, invite your child to color it with markers or tempera paints and staple the two ends to the cardboard sea. another option is to make a simple craft stick structure that does directly onto the ocean-blue cardboard. Have your child glue craft sticks horizontally in a row to make a basic walking bridge.
Between kindergarten and third grade, your child is developing the fine motor skills and cognitive abilities to create a more sophisticated structure, in comparison to what your 3-year-old can. While it's unlikely that she's ready to make a full-on suspension bridge, she can put together a simple 3D bridge using everyday items such as toothpicks and marshmallows. Ask your child to draw a truss bridge -- with triangle-shaped braces and beams that go across the structure's span -- to get an idea of what she will make and practice her geometry skills. Your grade-schooler can recreate her drawing in a mini-model by anchoring toothpick triangles together with marshmallows at the joints. She can glue the triangles to a cardboard base in two parallel rows -- making the project completely inedible -- to complete the bridge-building process.
Older Elementary and Middle School Aged Kids
Your older child might enjoy a bridge building project that is more in-depth or realistic than what he made in kindergarten. Start your project with a discussion about the types of bridges such as truss, suspension, arched or covered. Have your child pick one bridge that interests him and help him to choose the appropriate materials to construct a model version of it. For example, if he wants to build a suspension bridge, he will need solid blocks for the vertical piers, a flat surface -- such as cardboard -- for the deck, string or yarn for the cables and straws or dowels to suspend the cables from. He will also need clear drying, nontoxic school glue to put his construction together.
Simply placing a few craft sticks onto cardboard or cutting out a flat deck isn't enough of a bridge-building project to hold your teen's attention. Your high school student can create her own in-depth bridge construction by using intricate pieces when building a scale model of a truss or suspension bridge. Another option is to make a bridge oddity, focusing on some of the stranger structures out there. For example, Singapore's Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge looks like an 116-foot-tall rolling Slinky toy. Your teen can use foil, cardboard or even thin metal wore to recreate this type of artistic structure.