Engineering “that’s a lot of fun, that gets kids jumping up and down and screaming” sparks the imaginations of youngster says Dori Roberts, an engineering educator and developer of Engineering for Kids. Are you surprised? Do you find it hard to believe? Just take a look at kids building forts, and you get a taste of what Roberts already knows. From preschool through high school, kids explore engineering through design, testing, problem-solving and more hands-on activities. Fort Magic kits expose children to these opportunities.According to Roberts, kids of all ages enthusiastically engage in the engineering design process. A variety of hands-on projects present the opportunities for kids to interact with STEM-skill building at their age level. Finding age-appropriate activities boosts kids’ learning, success, and love of engineering. While the steps of the design process are the same for a 4-year-old and a 14-year-old, the difficulty increases with age. For example, preschoolers might love bubble science while video game design or robotics challenge high schoolers. Across the ages, forts offer building and design activities that engage and delight kids.
Not only does fort building inspire kids of all ages, but also kids of both genders. This timeless activity magically draws girls and boys to engineering. Not only is this good for the development of our children, but it opens the possibilities of engineering careers to girls at an early age. Our world reaps the rewards of boys and girls working together on engineering projects. Currently, girls are significantly underrepresented in STEM fields. Fort building just may help close that gap. Let’s take an inside look at how Fort Magic inspires kids of all ages and both genders to love the exploration and engineering design process. The steps include design, testing, failure, retesting and failing again. Success grows with each action taken.
All good forts begin with a dream, inspiration or idea. And, this spark births the beginnings of engineering design as well. Kids with the freedom to dream and design around their visions develop a view of the world larger than themselves. Toddlers enjoy basic playhouse or simple shape designs. School-aged kids may find that devising two forts solves a problem between friends. On the older end of childhood, teens challenge themselves to dream up architectural feats or forts with “smart” capacities.
Will this shape of fort stand? What connecting pieces are required to support the fort cover? How do I make a rounded dome top? Will the location work with or against the design? Does the fort need to be widened or narrowed? These questions lead kids to try new designs and experiment with innovative ideas. Moving from design to construction lets kids test out the theories in their minds. Measuring, figuring and building bring the fort and STEM skills to life.
Inevitably in the play of fort building, something goes awry. The dog runs through the middle of the fort pulling the cover with him. That single Fort Magic stick along the roofline does not support the heavier cover. The fort turned out smaller than imagined, and it’s too small for both creators to fit. While failures frustrate your kids, they also teach valuable problem-solving skills. Parents often wrestle with allowing our kids to experience failure. Problem-solving skills and confidence emerge from kids grappling with these dilemmas on their own. Amid solving a problem, new ideas are born.
Kids learn to give it another go with the gentle encouragement of parents. Children employ an innovative idea and then retest a newer design. Will two sticks provide enough roof support? Is a lighter cover in order? Will your child add an extra room for more space, or will he or she completely rework the design?
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
Perhaps the newer idea falls short of success or another issue arises as kids play in the fort. Solutions that seem to fail at first bring kids back to the drawing board. Failure is a natural and needed part of the process. After all, this is what engineers do before settling on a final design. Encourage your children with kind words when frustration sets in. Give them a bit of help to learn to persevere. Try taking a break, move to another form of physical activity, or eat a snack to provide a mental break and refueling time. When your child’s brain takes a break, new inspiration may come along the way.
Victory comes when the fort stands tall and playtime begins. The battle to get to this point is truly more of a pay off than the final product itself. After all, the challenge built into the engineering design process motivates kids while inspiring creativity and learning. While you can celebrate the solidly built fort with your child, true success is measured in the STEM skills developed and the confidence gained during the process of reaching the final design. In a few days, when the fort transforms to another design, or, in a few years, when forts are no longer interesting, the skills developed during the fort building process are the things that stay with your child. The skills are just a byproduct of all their great fort building memories among you and your kids.
How do you and your children explore engineering by building forts? Share your ideas with us below!
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TinkerLab Blog: One of our favorite engineering blogs for children is TinkerLab. Have you ever visited the site? If not, you’ll definitely want to browse sometime soon. You will find loads of fun and inventive ideas for encouraging all things hands-on and engineering for kids. TinkerLab has fantastic Tinker Lab YouTube videos too!
Rave & Review Blog: The fun Rave & Review blog is where you’ll find loads of sharing on your favorite products for parents and grandparents all the way to newborns.
Twodaloo Blog: At the awesome Twodaloo blog you will find activities and information about early childhood development that you can use at home, in the classroom, or in the therapy setting.
The Artful Parent Blog: One of our absolute favorite creative blogs for children and families. The Artful Parent blog is filled with simple ideas to fill your family’s life with art and creativity. A must see blog for sure.
Fort Magic Customer Photos via Facebook: Visit our Fort Magic Facebook page to see our customer creativity shine with fun pics and videos of families enjoying their Fort Magic kit during playtime.
Fort Magic Customer Photos via Instagram: Visit our Fort Magic Instagram page to see our customer creativity shine with fun pics and videos of families enjoying their Fort Magic kit during playtime.