Boys Like to Build

Once after watching an episode of Bob the Builder, the five-year-old told me he wanted to build a bridge. Who says TV is bad for kids?!

Thanks to Lori of Camp Creek Blog I tuned into the fact that boys like to build.  Boys like hands-on activities.  (Of course, lots of girls do too!) Building fosters their creativity, organizational and problem solving skills.

At her suggestion, I started of a box of building supplies, which you can see in my photo down below.  You might like to do this too, especially since it’s a great way to recycle!  Here’s a list of ideas to get you started:

  • cardboard from old boxes, cereal boxes, etc.
  • empty boxes
  • paper towel and toilet paper tubes
  • gallon jugs
  • string
  • popsicle sticks
  • wine corks
  • scrap paper
  • old bottles
  • clothes pins
  • toothpicks
  • anything laying around the house that looks useful!

I try to let my son run with his ideas, although he often comes up with ideas that are impossible to implement.  Without discouraging him too much, I remind him of what materials we have and don’t have, and I tell him when my skills are limited. Sometimes I have to tell him that we simply can’t do what he’s asking.  Then I suggest going another route.  I’m finding it very rewarding to sit back and let him find out for himself what works and doesn’t work.  I do have to help him a lot, but I let him instruct me as to what I’m supposed to do!  (Pssst: I’m getting better at not making suggestions. See Building the Titanic: Project-based Homeschooling.)

He can be quite the perfectionist, so if something falls apart on him, he can get quite upset.  Then I make suggestions too, and I keep telling him that he just has to try another way.  I’m hoping over time that his angst will lessen!

I try very hard not to micro-manage when he “builds.” I was very impressed with how he “measured” the bridge with a measuring tape,and then he counted the popsicle sticks to make sure they were the same size on both sides.

I’ve also begun to slowly accumulate some inexpensive store bought art materials on hand:

  • various sizes of construction paper and poster paper
  • special art paper such as watercolor paper
  • watercolor paints and pencils
  • crayons & markers
  • extra scissors & glue
  • paints and brushes
  • air-dry modeling clay
  • craft thread, squares of fabric & fabric scissors
  • felt
  • little wooden sticks and cubes
  • googly eyes
  • sparkly sequins etc.
  • stickers
  • colorful feathers
  • pastels
  • anything fun

Our box of building supplies.

In my attempt to allow the boys ample freedom yet also preserve paper, I keep a box for the scrap paper. We reuse as much as possible.

To my pleasant surprise, and before I even showed my five-year-old the box of building supplies, he announced one night that he wanted to make a rocket.  I have no idea where he got this desire, but I was so happy to have that box with a paper towel tube in it!  So I showed him the box, and ever since then, he’s frequently wanted to make something.  

The Rocket. Making things pretty is definitely a girl thing. I always suggest that we complete these projects by painting them or covering them with paper, but the five-year-old doesn’t care for that. He wants a simple structure that he can play with right away.

Sometimes he comes up with his own ideas.  Other times he finds something to build with and asks, “What can I make with this?”  The piggy bank was one such item where we started out with a gallon jug and searched for an idea.  EcoArt! by Laurie Carlson is a book that we were given one Christmas, and it’s full of great ideas.

Piggy Bank made from gallon jug and wine corks. Five-year-old did want to decorate this with stickers – his favorite!

So here’s a picture portfolio of some of his work thus far.  If you are wondering, “Where will she put all this stuff?” that’s a very good question.  I’m wondering that myself!  (Suggestions or advice will be much appreciated!)  Eventually we’ll be able to weed through some of this.  We’ll keep a few things and throw the rest away, but I think my son might build at a rate that I can’t keep up with!  It’ll be fun to see what happens, though.

octopus made with toilet paper tube, felt and googly eyes

Popsicle stick creations! My son made this, and it’s supposed to be a raft, although we haven’t tried to make it float.

This one worked well, though! Thank goodness my boys like to eat a lot of popsicles.

A blowhorn. Don’t know where he got the idea to make this. But it works well. Unfortunately.

Like the five-year-old at that age, my two-year-old loves to just cut paper. This is where that scrap paper box comes in real handy.

And we still love to make paper animals, which I wrote about when my son was doing preschool work.  The scrap paper box is essential for that.

How do you encourage your children to create?

19 Responses to “Boys Like to Build”

  1. girls like to build too!

    • Of course they do! And I meant to mention in the post that everything I write surely applies to girls too, but I forgot. Sorry!! As you can see, I’ve got boys on my mind.

  2. Love your pictures, too! My boy is exactly the same and loves Bob the Builder! :)

  3. I nodded along with every word in this post. My nearly four-year-old son LOVES to build. If you don’t have a set of wooden “standard unit blocks” I highly recommend purchasing them. They can be a bit pricey, but my son spends an hour or two every day building dog houses, roads, bridges, etc. We have scrap paper, cardboard, popcicle sticks (you can buy 1000 for a few dollars at a craft store), and craft supplies already but I hadn’t thought of saving toilet paper and paper towel rolls. I can see lots of building possibilities with those. Thanks for the idea.

    • Thanks, Rena! We do have a lot of blocks, although curiously my five-year-old was never into block building as much as his younger brother, who is very hands-on. We have wooden blocks, Mega blocks and duplo blocks for him, and he LOVES them. Yes, you can buy popsicle sticks and many other building items at any hobby store. My boys eat popsicles everyday though, so we’re always accumulating a good supply! lol Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Both of my kids have the building bug. So much so that we made a radical change in the Christmas plan and gave them Locking Ladders, Wedgits, and Contraptions (aka Keva planks). Ben also got two buckets of Gears and the under the sea set (as well as yet more Legos). They come by this honestly, P is a structural engineer. I love being able to say, you know, I don’t know how to make that work, but I bet Dad does :)

  5. loved this.

    What to do with them all? What has worked for us is having a set amount of space for creations and after that they have to be recycled, or my favorite – have a big spring bonfire and burn stuff you no longer want. This works well for wood creations.

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