No blocks? Try these clever ideas for building towers from guest author Brigitte Brulz.
Do your kids love to be builders and build towers really high? Or maybe, they would rather be a part of the demolition crew and knock them down?
Although blocks can be used for many activities (see 44 Activities to do with Blocks), you don’t necessarily need blocks to build a tower. You may find that your house is filled with tower building supplies.
No blocks, no problem!
Here are some everyday household items you can use to build towers.
Plastic, Styrofoam, or paper cups can make great towers. Stack them upside down one on top of the other like a pyramid, or stack them drinking-side to drinking-side on top of each other. How high can you go?
2. Sugar cubes
Sugar cubes are like miniature blocks to build towers!
3. Plastic bowls and containers
Your kitchen cupboards are a tower-building supply mine. Plastic bowls and containers can be stacked in so many ways to build towers. Use the containers by themselves or stack them with their lids.
4. Craft sticks
To create a craft stick tower, layer them on top of each other, or combine them with clothespins for an added challenge.
If you have empty cans, rinse them out really well. To ensure that little fingers don’t get cut on sharp edges, try to remove the sharp edges as best as possible and tape around the top of the cans with thick tape. Go for a variety of sizes to make it more fun!
If you don’t have any empty cans, just build with cans of food from your cupboards. You may want your little ones to wear shoes to protect their little toes. Also, be aware that falling cans may dent flooring depending on what you have, so it’s best on carpet or a blanket.
6. Playing Cards
If you want a challenge, try to build a tower using playing cards. One slight bump is all it takes to destroy it.
7. Toothpicks and cheese squares
Tasty and fun! Assembling toothpicks with cheese squares into towers can prove to be challenging if there isn’t a strong base. You could practice building cubes or pyramids and discuss three-dimensional shapes. Once the tower is completed, it’s snack time!
Try this fruit and veggie tower building activity too!
8. Swim Noodles
Swim noodles can often be found under $1 each. Try cutting them into even pieces for stacking, or odd pieces for more imaginative play.
9. Toothpicks and marshmallows
Be prepared to get sticky! Large marshmallows provide a stable base, while mini-marshmallows work well as the tower grows. If building a tower is frustrating, simply create various masterpieces with the toothpicks and marshmallows.
10. Straws and marshmallows
If you are worried about toothpicks pricking little fingers, try straws cut uniformly instead. Straws don’t seem to work with the cheese squares, but they will work with the soft marshmallows.
11. Straws and clay/moldable dough
Moldable dough (store bought or homemade play dough) makes another great adhesive for building straw towers! I found that it was easier to roll the dough into balls and then have my kids stick the straws into the balls. Sometimes, it may require a little assistance from an extra pair of hands to get the tower to grow.
12. Just Straws
Insert straws into each other and watch the tower grow. If it’s tough to wedge the straws together, try using scissors to add a little snip at the end of one straw to get it started.
13. Buttons and clay/moldable dough
Stack large buttons and moldable dough on top of each other until the tower is completed (or falls down on its own). Try making your own play dough if you don’t have any (this is a play dough recipe without flour!)
Buttons can also be stacked one on top of each other (with no dough) until they fall over. It’s great fine motor practice!
14. Noodles with dough
This is a similar concept as the straws with dough, but noodles may be stronger and heavier. Do an experiment and see which works better.
15. Empty boxes
Moving boxes, diaper boxes, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, noodle boxes, juice pouch boxes, and more cardboard boxes can be used to build towers. Mix and match and see what you can come up with.
If you are using a box with thick cardboard, simply tape the ends closed. To make the boxes to last for a while, you may want to stuff the thinner cardboard boxes with crumpled newspapers to provide support.
Boxes that have food inside of them may add a challenge, since one end of the box may be heavier than the other end.
For extra fun, you can wrap the boxes in plain paper and let the kids decorate them with various coloring supplies. Then, they will have their own personalized blocks.
16. Cardboard Pieces
Simple cardboard pieces with notches can create some interesting towers. Check out these building squares from Abby The Librarian.
17. Empty DVD cases
In my house, I store all of my DVDs in a single DVD/CD case, so I have a lot of empty DVD cases. Challenge the kids to see how tall they can make it!
(Hint: The difference between an open and a closed case can make all the difference…)
Cut thick sponges into wide strips and stack as high as possible with layers of three strips stacked crisscrossed similar to the classic game, Jenga (affiliate link).
19. Cardboard egg cartons
Individual egg carton cups are tricky to balance on each other, and little kids will enjoy the simple “nesting” of one egg cup inside another. Or, try cutting the egg cartons into sections to make bigger “blocks”.
20. Milk cartons
The ends of these can be folded over and taped shut to create a rectangular shape block.
21. Toilet paper tubes
Toilet paper tubes are very versatile! Not only can you do many crafts with them, but you can also use them in a variety of ways to build towers.
Here are a few ideas for building:
- Pile them one on top of the other horizontally. Make sure to have something on the sides holding them into place.
- Stack them vertically on top of each other or with cardboard. You can also slit the edges and stack them together connecting the slits.
- Cut, fold, and tape them together to make your own personal cubed blocks. There is a wonderful tutorial of this on http://babbledabbledo.com/recycled-craft-tube-blocks/.
Build a tower as you do a math lesson, counting the dots on the dominoes as you go.
23. Thick Paper
By folding thick paper into triangle shapes, you can create a rather sturdy tower. Check out these paper building blocks from Babble Dabble Do.
Stack one on top of the other. Once you get the tower as high as you want, jump into it. They are very soft blocks!
25. Snow blocks or Sand blocks
If you live in an area with snow or sand, get yourself a handy snow or sand block mold (affiliate link). The kids could make a pretty monstrous tower with a limitless supply of blocks!
Mixing It Up
Some of the supplies can be mixed and matched with one another to create some interesting towers. Once the towers are built, have fun knocking them down in a variety of ways.
For example, cans may be knocked over by “bowling” another can into the tower. Craft stick towers can be “exploded” by putting a single craft stick underneath the tower and lifting quickly.
Have fun building (and demolishing) towers to their little hearts’ content!
Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom of two daughters and author of Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles and Jobs of a Preschooler. She offers free coloring pages and activity ideas for her books on her website at http://www.brigittebrulz.com/.