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

  • How does paper change when you fold it or roll it? What else could you build with paper?
  • Can you think of something new that you could construct with paper that is not normally made out of paper? How could using paper be a good idea for your construction? How might it cause a problem?