Children are often given some common toys to play with and have fun. Boys get the toy sports cars, the action heroes, the guns, rocket ships, and girls get the dolls, pets, arts and crafts kits as well as basic jewelry kits. These are all well and good and should be given to your children to play with but they could also learn a thing or two while they play. Introducing complex concepts such as engineering and making it fun can be something that pays off immensely in the long run. For one, they’re already playing and want to enjoy having more control over what they make. This is natural to kids, which is why they often use playdough to make different things they like. Children also love lego for the same reason, because they get more control over the things they can make. This kind of thinking should be encouraged and to that end, different ways to enjoy engineering can be introduced. Not only does it gear their minds to problem-solve, but they can also test their own skills as they get better. Engineering is a concept that never ends, doesn’t have one answer for everything and continues to improve over time.
Building a bridge
In the world of children’s engineering, the most basic form of building something is a bridge. You have two points and a middle, which makes the design concept easy to understand. However the task is also simple, which is weight-bearing. A bridge is designed to transfer or transport people from one side of the landscape to another. This could be due to a flowing river underneath, a giant chasm separating a part of the land, it might even be to connect a railway line from the inside of a mountain to the other side of the landscape. Regardless of what the reason is, the task is still the same but the challenges are different. Here’s how you can introduce this to children on a small scale.
The first game shall be to transport their toys cars over a bridge with something harmless in the middle, which shall be the danger to avoid. This can be something like putting a bowl of water in the middle of two cardboard boxes, and if the bridge isn’t designed properly the cars will fall in. A basic bridge can be made out of straws and paper. You should limit the amount of paper you can use as too much makes the game easy. The plastic straws are great because they can be bent into shape. They also allow children to understand the concept of short pressure bearing. A zigzag shape is far stronger than one long shape because the shortness of the design.
Designing your own figurine
If perhaps your children are more into design and art, they can still learn how they can use their interests in engineering. Engineering is everywhere, it’s inside our homes. If you have any kind of figurines such as a clay dog, a plastic candle holder, a metal picture frame, or maybe a ceramic flower pot or vase, you can take inspiration from them and make them at home. Using a 3D printer, you can make just about anything. These kinds of printers are not that expensive either with some of them going for around $2-300. These printers can literally make or print off what you have designed so this is a bargain the long term scheme of things.
However, they need 3d filaments to function, as these are used as the ‘ink’ of the printer. You can get them in all different kinds of colors. It’s wise to get all the colors of the spectrum, so you can get creative with your engineering and design figurines. You do need 3D software on your computer to get the most out of the printer. However, this allows your children even greater control, as they can make shapes out of nothing both on-screen and in the printer. With the printing of their designs they can see if they have an understanding of load-bearing, thickness of materials or extra design support, as well as size, height and general dimensions that make things work.
Flying through the air
You may not realize it, but paper airplanes are a great way to learn about engineering and design. There are world championships of paper airplanes in fact because designers are always looking to make shapes that not only provide lift but speed as well. Many schools and individuals compete in these championships which often have a cash reward for the victors along with funding for their groups such as universities. You can learn how to make different kinds of paper airplanes online. There are some that are gliders, some that are built for speed, some that are kind of in the middle and others that are just trying out new concepts like wing flares.
However, to add a little more fun to this you can make an airplane launcher as well. It’s quite easy to do, but you can make more effective styles if you want. For example, a basic launcher can be a piece of wood, with two nails stuck at two corners and an elastic band with a paperclip as the connector. You can design and make ramps, launch tunnels or even ramped lifts that see the plane use gravity to build up speed. You can also put objects in the way, away from the launcher so the plane has to clear a certain height or distance. This further makes the challenge of making a plane that not only suits the launcher but is able to fly effectively.
Engineering is a bug that your children can catch if you show them how to make things work or design their own things. Bridges are the first kind of concept you can show them as it’s very easy to understand the 3 basic points. However, you can also make things futuristic with a 3D printer because you can make just about anything with it. Whether it’s completely new figurines or mimicking something they like such as their own toys, they can design their own pieces using this kind of equipment.