5 fun engineering challenges your kids will love


Picture this. It’s a hot summer day, and the last thing you want to do is take your kids outside to sweat it out and face the dangerous UV waves from the sun. Maybe it’s raining outside, and the indoors is the place to be. Or let’s face it, you’re tired of doing the same outdoors activities with your kids over and over again. You’ve been to every park in the city, you’ve tried every sport, and you even already went camping! There’s only so much one can do outside during the summer, and you’ve exhausted that list weeks ago. It’s time for a change, and it’s also time for some indoor fun..

Thankfully, there’s a solution to all of this. Here are five, fun-filled engineering for kids challenges and games that you can easily set up at home. If the convenience isn’t enough, the activities also each hold valuable learning opportunities that will get your child’s brain in the right place before school starts and avoid the summer slide.

Whatever Floats Your Boat

paper boat engineering for kids float challenge

What You’ll Need…

  • Something to hold a good amount of water (e.g., bucket, sink, bathtub)

  • Tape (preferably duct tape)

  • Paper cups (8-ounce or larger)

  • 10-inch strip of plastic wrap (or aluminum foil)

  • 10 straws

  • Towels (splash zone warning!)

  • Pennies, metal washers, or both

Who needs a trip to the lake or the beach when you’ve got this wet and wild challenge on your hands? The objective of the game is simple: using the limited materials at your disposal, create something that both floats and can carry the most pennies or metal washers. What you and your child will find out quickly enough is that there is no one right answer. The possibilities are endless! Despite the title of this engineering for kids challenge, the finished product does not have to be or look like a boat. In fact, tag us with @kwaddlecom in pics of your unique engineering creations on Instagram!

A Table Made of Paper?!

engineering for kids book support challenge

What You’ll Need…

  • Heavy books (e.g., textbooks, phone books, etc.)

  • Masking tape (any tape works)

  • 8 sheets of newspaper (construction paper or manila folder work too)

After tackling this game, your child will definitely develop an appreciation for how strong the kitchen table is. The point of this challenge is this: using the tape and paper, create a support structure that can hold as many large books as possible. At first, this task may seem impossible. How can such a flimsy material like paper hold pounds of books? Your kid will quickly realize that you can manipulate the shape of paper to make it stronger than it once was. Once you’ve built your structure, carefully stack the books one at a time and see just how strong your creation is. As long as you’ve got the paper, you can rinse and repeat this Jenga substitute of an engineering for kids challenge.

Time for a Zip Line

engineering for kids zipline challenge

What You’ll Need…

  • Manila folder

  • 2-4 small paper cups

  • Ping-Pong ball

  • 4 plastic straws

  • Scissors

  • Single-hole hole punch

  • 4 feet of string

  • Tape

  • 4 metal washers

  • 4 wooden skewers

Finally, you can check that ziplining adventure off your bucket list! This task will put your design skills to the test. The goal is to build something (a carrier) that can take the Ping-Pong ball down a “zipline” in approximately four seconds. Run the string through the back of a chair and a stack of books while making sure the high end is about two feet above the low end. As long as the vertical descent is two feet, it doesn’t really matter where you tie the line. Want an additional challenge? Try creating a carrier that can hold multiple Ping-Pong balls. Better yet, make a carrier that requires at least 10 seconds to travel time down the zipline. There’s more to this engineering for kids challenge than meets the eye.

Tower Power

engineering for kids straw tower challenge

What You’ll Need…

  • 10 straws

  • Tape

It’s time to think like an architect and design the tallest tower using only 10 straws. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the number of ways you can approach this game. Remember, the goal is height, so don’t worry about making the most beautiful or realistic tower known to man. This engineering for kids challenge will most likely involve a lot of falling straw towers, but don’t get discouraged. It is a test of patience and perseverance, and your child will eventually discover a design that works.

Marble Roller Coaster

engineering for kids marble run

What You’ll Need…

  • Cardboard tubes (from toilet paper or paper towels)

  • Tape

  • Scissors

  • Marbles

Don’t waste your money buying a marble run set from the store when you can simply create your own in this unique engineering for kids challenge. Find some wall space, and get to work on building your very own roller coaster. As you’re building, you’re going to be constantly testing out your design, so try not to lose your marbles (literally).

Engineering for Kids Challenges: Level Two

At first glance, these challenges may seem plain in terms of content. Yes, it’s true that you can do them while spending one-on-one time with your child, but maybe you don’t have just one child. Maybe your kid has siblings, classmates, friends, neighborhood friends, cousins, etc. There are other ways to spice up the challenges, ranging from putting time constraints to adding and subtracting materials.

The More the Merrier

lines and rows of rubber ducks

If your child doesn’t have any siblings, it might be a good idea to invite over some friends, classmates, or the neighborhood to come and participate in these fun and educational engineering for kids challenges. If there’s enough people, teams can be formed, and there’s nothing more exhilarating than some friendly competition. These kids will be motivated to learn valuable team working skills that engineers use on a daily basis. Team building will be essential to all aspects of your child’s development, from group projects in middle and high school all the way to team meetings at the workplace. Teams offer the chance for your child to both speak up and present their ideas while also listening to others’ diverse perspectives. Each of these challenges can be modified to fit both teams and some competition (the boat that can successfully hold the most amount of pennies, tallest straw tower, etc.).

Time’s Up!

clock represents time

One crucial element that’s missing from all these engineering challenges is a time constraint. Watching the clock not only adds a sense of urgency but also teaches the kids a valuable lesson. The world of engineering is filled with time constraints in the form of deadlines. Engineering is all about designing and creating solutions to problems with limited resources, and the resources include money, human labor, materials, and, most important of all, time. Meeting a deadline can be the key difference in whether or not a product launches successfully and could mean the loss of millions for a company. Depending on the engineering firm, the industry is usually seasonal, so forecasts are usually precise, and the deadline is the deadline. Deadlines will appear everywhere throughout your child’s life, from school project deadlines to college applications. Better that kids get exposed to this through engineering for kids challenges now rather than later when the stakes are much higher.

More or Less

abacus to show calculations

In each of these challenges, the amount and number of materials can be modified. This gives a freshness to the engineering for kids challenges because they can be repeated for different results to be observed. Can you build a tower twice as tall with twice as many straws? How many more books can that paper table hold now that you have extra paper? All of these questions and hypotheses can be answered by adjusting the number of materials. This allows your child to learn by trial and error and by the scientific method. By being involved in the design process trial after trial, they’re going to discover what works and what doesn’t. By nature, this will make them true scientists and true engineers while having fun at the same time.

Out of the House

Are you inspired to take the  engineering challenges outside the home? Kwaddle.com has some great engineering for kids camps and other relevant enrichment activities that will get them thinking like engineers. Here are just a few of the camps we really like.


In this engineering for kids camp, children will learn about the science of research and design involved in building projects. Projects include Legos, electronics, and other materials. Kids will gain an in-depth understanding of the scientific method, a staple of any engineer.

engineering for kids camp stemgineering drone

photo credit - https://www.stemgineering.net/

Engineering & Programming with Lego Robotics Kits

Kids will learn more engineering fundamentals in this engineering for kids camp. Students will learn how to build and program robots to sing, dance, navigate a maze, hit or pitch a ball, play mini golf, and more. The emphasis is project-based learning, which is perfect preparation for a future engineer.

engineering for kids lego robotics

Club Invention - Bolder Builders

This program module has kids help architect and engineer buildings for a fictional town destroyed by an earthquake. They must constantly build and test prototypes and engage in the engineering design process. This is engineering for kids in an interactive and fun format.

engineering for kids camp invention

photo credit - www.campinvention.org

Read more about how engineering for kids fits into the overall picture of STEM for kids in our article, "The Careers of the future and lifelong success start with STEM for kids."