How to Build a Tower: 25 Simple Engineering Ideas for Kids

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Are you looking for some additional STEM or engineering activity ideas for your kids? Let’s talk towers…… or more specifically, how to build a tower without blocks.

25 ways to build towers - the text is over an image of towers made with tree discs and clear, colorful cups

Benefits of block play include developing math, science, communication, and problem-solving skills. Traditional unit blocks and Legos are excellent tools for building towers. I also want to share some great non-traditional ways that kids can make towers.

Towers from the Recycling Bin

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on building tools for your kids. You can often find fantastic materials in your trash can or recycling bin. Here are some ideas for building towers, and some ideas for fun materials that you can add to your science center.

Paper Towel Rolls

Save those cardboard paper towel tubes. In addition to fun craft activities, your kids can also use them to make towers.

Cardboard tubes may present some challenges as kids try to make a stable tower. Kids can add an index card in between each tube, or they can experiment with other methods.

They can add holes and use pipe cleaners to hold them together. You can also add some snips on the ends so that the tubes hook together.

How to build a tower with cardboard paper towel rolls

Cups and Plates

Use paper or plastic plates and cups to make a towers. Kids can experiment with stacking just the cups.

how to build a tower - a tower made from green solo cups and paper plates

Egg Cartons

Cut up some egg cartons to use for stacking activities.

how to build a tower - a small tower made from sections of a cardboard egg carton

Boxes

As we purchase more and more things online, I find that we have lots of cardboard shipping boxes around the house. Save some of those boxes, tape them closed, and let your kids build with them.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from cardboard boxes

Plastic Containers

Save those yogurt, applesauce, and deli containers and add them to your building area.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from various empty plastic containers

Bottle Caps

I love plastic bottle caps because they can be used in so many ways. In addition to using them as counters and for sensory activities, your kids can also use them to build towers. Use them alone or stack them up with wooden craft sticks.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from plastic bottle caps

Toothpick Towers

Many engineering challenges feature toothpick towers. When kids build toothpick towers, they have to put a lot of thought into how to create a structure that is stable.

To create towers with toothpicks, you need to provide some type of material to hold the toothpicks together. The fun thing is that you can use LOTS of different materials. Here are lots of ideas:

It’s fun to use marshmallows to build towers.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from marshmallows and toothpicks

Try gummy bears, gummy worms, gumdrops or other treats.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from gummie bears and toothpicks
an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from gummy worms and toothpicks

Looking for heathier alternatives? Try grapes, apples pieces, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, or cheese squares.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from grapes and toothpicks

If you don’t want to use food items, kids can build toothpick towers with balls for playdough.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower balls of playdough and toothpicks

Save foam packing peanuts to use for building and engineering projects.

How to build a tower with packing peanuts and toothpicks - an example of a eye-hand coordination activity

Sheets of foam from trays and packing materials are make great towers.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower flat sheets of foam and toothpicks

Additional Tower Ideas

I listed lots of tower materials from your recycling bin and many ways to create toothpick towers. Need some additional ideas? Check these out….

Straw Towers

You can twist the end of one straw so that it will fit into the end of another straw. Here, we began by poking holes into a sheet of foam with a dowel and then we stuck straws in the holes.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from plastic straws stuck in a sheet of foam

You can also use straws with connectors such as playdough.

Spaghetti

Use spaghetti noodles like toothpicks. See the list above for materials that you can use to join the pasta noodles.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from spaghetti noodles and marshmallows

Foam Blocks with Shaving Cream

Adding some shaving cream to foam blocks provides a great sensory experience. Kids can treat the shaving cream like mortar to join blocks to make a tower.

Foam Pool Noodles

I like using pool noodles for fun art projects, but kids can also use them for building projects. Cut a noodle into sections that are 4-5 inches long to use them as cylindrical blocks.

Craft Stick with Cups

Craft sticks and small plastic shot glasses work well together.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from craft sticks and small plastic shot glasses

Tree Discs and Cups

You can also use the small cups with tree discs.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from clear plastic cups and tree discs

Torn Paper and Glue Collage Tower

Here is a non-traditional tower. Kids can sculpt a tower with a mixture of glue, water, and torn paper.

an example of how to build a tower- a tower made from torn construction paper mache

You can also use things like DVD cases, sheets of packing foam, sponges to make amazing towers.

Do you have additional ideas for how to build a tower? I would love to hear your material ideas so that I can add them to the list.

Here are some additional STEM activities for your kids. Click on the images to check them out.

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