Craft sticks are definitely one of my favorite building materials for kids! They are so cheap, and you can use them in a multitude of different ways. In this STEM activity, challenge kids to construct the longest possible bridge using only craft sticks and wooden cubes. No glue, no tape, no adhesives of any kind! This is a great way to explore gravity and balance points, while encouraging cooperative learning. It’s really hard to build a bridge by yourself, but with a friend the task is much easier!
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I used 3/4 inch wooden cubes from Hobby Lobby. Here are some wooden cubes on Amazon if that’s easier.
You’ll also need jumbo colored craft sticks.
And a ruler. That’s it!
Challenge: How far can your bridge go from one support to the next?
At first, my 8 year not was not too sure how we were going to build a very long bridge, especially when I told him that we could not just add more cubes underneath for support (cheater!).
Here’s what you can accomplish just with one craft stick. Hmm, not too impressive. So the length to beat is 5 inches!
Layering the craft sticks doesn’t work… Hmm…
We tried adding weight to one side to hold the bottom craft stick up.
And it worked! My son wasn’t sure at first why I was suggesting that we do that. Then he said, “Oh, I can see why we needed those cubes on one side!” It’s fun when the learning clicks!
So we made it to 7.5 inches…
…but we thought we could beat that!
Woo hoo! We made a bridge that was 13 inches long!
Notice that the craft sticks hang off the ends of the bridge on each side. That design was necessary to balance the sticks and create a space to add the weights in the right place. Kids will notice that the balance point of the sticks + cubes is different than the balance point of the sticks alone.
You’ll need to add weight to either end first before adding craft sticks in the middle, otherwise the whole thing will tip. It helps to have one person adding weight and keeping the structure stable with their hands while the other person adds more craft sticks in the middle.
Figuring out how much weight is needed to balance the sticks without tipping it all over is such a good thought process for kids to experience!
I would recommend this for ages 7+, although younger kids will still enjoy building with these materials. They just may not be able to build the types of bridges pictured in this post.
More STEM Challenges with Craft Sticks:
- 4 Engineering Challenges with Cups, Craft Sticks, and Wooden Cubes
- 5 Engineering Challenges with Clothespins, Binder Clips, and Craft Sticks