If you haven’t pulled out the toothpicks and marshmallows with your kids, now’s the time! These building challenges are the perfect way to spend an indoor day. The best building activities do not need fancy or expensive supplies. You CAN easily do these activities at home or school, and are fun and challenging which makes building structures an awesome STEM activity for kids of all ages.



Best Structure Building Activities to do with kids. Awesome engineering and kids STEM activities for building structures.


My son loves when I get out the toothpicks and some sort of squishy candy or cut-up fruit. He knows it is building time! Here’s our list of best building activities for kids.

Why is building structures amazing STEM play? To build a solid structure you need a good design, the right amount of pieces, a solid base, and basic engineering skills.  All important aspects of STEM! Learn more about engineering for kids!

We like to set up fun building challenges using easy and inexpensive supplies. STEM is all about the world around us so let’s encourage kids to use what they have and get creative with their engineering skills!


Below you will find a list of materials and links to specific building projects. Click on the links highlighted in red to learn more about these different building activities

1. Toothpicks and Food

Common snack foods such as apples, cheese, and marshmallows (for fun) are good for building with. We added some crackers to use as bases or platforms. Although this is what we used, the possibilities are endless!

Edible structures snack time STEM activity for little engineers

2. Toothpicks and Candy

You can use any gummy sort of candy such as and for building elaborate structures including bridges. Tasty too!

Engineering Structures with Gum Drops Building Structures with Gum Drops

3. Toothpicks and Pool Noodles 

If you want to use toothpicks and something other than candy or food items, try pool noodles or any other styrofoam that is chunky. We sliced up a pool noodle to make our pool noodle structures.

Pool Noodle Structures Connecting Towers with Toothpicks

4. Shaving Cream And Pool Noodles

Yes, we really did try this!  We took our pool noodle chunks from above and added a different kind of building challenge, shaving cream! Pretty fun and pretty messy, but it cleans up quickly too! Our structures were a little different, but we still tested out quite a few skills.

Building with shaving cream and pool noodles

Pool Noodle Shaving Cream Building STEAM activity for summer

5. Pool Noodle Marble Run

Can you make a marble run from pool noodles and tape?  Try out this fun building challenge on a blank wall.

Pool Noodle Marble Run

Build a pool noodle marble run for kids STEM activities and engineering projects.

6. Playdough and Skewers

We put playdough and skewers together for a fun building activity. Skewers are like really long toothpicks and are a challenge all in themselves! You probably already have the two things you need to get started.

Playdough with Skewers

7. Playdough and Straws

Straws and play dough go together like marshmallows and toothpicks! You need a slightly different building technique since you have to mold the play dough, but the building challenge is similar.

IMG_3053 Building shapes with straws and play dough

8. Popsicle Sticks

Who knew STEM building activities could be so much fun? We did! Want to learn how to make a catapult with Popsicle sticks? Take the challenge!

Popsicle Stick Catapult

popsicle stick catapult

9. PVC Pipe

PVC pipes are awesome for STEM projects! Plus, our new PVC Pipe Kit is an easy, frugal alternative to the pricey toy alternatives. My son loves using “real” household items for play rather than toys.

PVC Pipe House Building Project PVC Pipe Engineering STEM activity

10. Plastic Cups

Plastic cups are a valuable and cheap resource to have on hand! Have you ever built a 100 cup tower? It makes for a great afternoon building activity.

100 Cup Tower Challenge

This Christmas cup tower STEM is a great science experiment for kids! One of the simplest experiments for kids to try this holiday season!

11. Recycled Cardboard

Grab a bunch of cardboard and cut out some simple shapes as we have for our cardboard building activities. We always keep a bunch of recyclable materials on hand for structure building activities!

Cardboard Box Rocket Ship How To Make a Cardboard Box Rocket Ship

12. LEGO

Can you build a LEGO tower as tall as you are? We are definitely trying to do this over the weekend. We have tons of LEGO, so I bet we can pull it off.

Some of our favorite LEGO building ideas…

LEGO Balloon Cars for Kids STEM Activities

13. Cards and Cups

Combine index cards or cardboard and cups for variety. Who can build the tallest tower?

Looking for easy to print activities, and inexpensive problem-based challenges? 

We have you covered…

—>>> FREE STEM challenges


Click on the image below or on the link for more awesome STEM activities for kids.

STEM activities for kids Year of STEM Challenges