Building with Paper: Engineering for Kids

Paper is such a useful material! Look around and see how many things you can find made out of paper. Did you know that you can build just about anything with paper? It's one of the easiest things to build with. You can make a sculpture, a card, a book or even a building with just a few tools: paper, scissors, glue and tape. Librarian Anne from Lincoln Park Branch recommends these books and activity ideas to help you get creative with paper.

When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel accompanies his parents as they head downtown to their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. As they clean, Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into The Paper Kingdom, filled with paper, dragons and kings.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors answers the question: Who is more powerful, Rock, Paper or Scissors? After many rounds of the game, the contestants realize the epic battle can go on forever.

A little girl wants desperately to go and see the parade outside her window, but her baby brother needs a nap. Disappointed, but not without an inspiration, she grabs scissors and paper and creates her own Paper Parade.

Do you know The Story of Paper? After the Kang brothers get in trouble at school, they devise a way to make paper, which will make things easier for both their teacher and themselves.

If you're ready to get creative, read Paper for eight creative activities to make: pop-up cards, a mix-and-match game, your own castle and lots of other paper creations.

In this video, Robert Sabuda talks about how he made his pop-up book The White House.

Are you ready to get building? Try these techniques to make a colorful 3-D paper sculpture.

  • Roll a narrow strip of paper around a pencil to make a spiral or curls.
  • Fold a piece of paper back and forth to make an accordion or fan.
  • Can you make a strip of paper into a circle, square or triangle?
  • Make a bridge or cut some fringe for a three-dimensional effect!

After you've built with paper, try an experiment to make a strong paper structure

  • For this experiment, you'll need two paper cups, a piece of paper approximately measuring 4x8 inches and some pennies.
  • Lay the flat piece of paper across the two paper cups like a bridge.
  • Begin placing pennies one by one on the paper between the two cups. How many pennies does it take to make your paper bridge fall?
  • Now fold the paper accordion-style length-wise and lay it between the cups like a bridge. How many pennies will your bridge hold now?

Reflect on Your Learning

Join the Summer Learning Challenge to earn prizes online or at your neighborhood branch. Read for 500 minutes and do at least one Discover and one Create activity to complete the challenge. Activities completed online will count as a Discover or a Create activity.

Kids, please ask your grown-up to fill out this form. Chicago Public Library cannot collect personal information online from kids 0 to 13.

* indicates a required field
  • About You

  • Child's Name * Required
  • Summer Learning Challenge is for kids 0 to 13.
  • Caregiver's Email
    By providing my email address, I agree to receive email from Chicago Public Library about my child's participation in the Summer Learning Challenge.
  • Sign Up for Email Updates
  • Your Reflection

    • Upload a photo of your creation or you at work. File should be a .jpg, .gif, .png or .pdf. Maximum file size is 5MB.
    • By submitting your photo, you authorize Chicago Public Library to post your work on our website, social media and print materials, along with your first name.
    Accepted file types: jpg, gif, png, pdf.
    Maximum file size - 5 mega bytes.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library