Two Peas In a Tripod: A Hands-On Activity for Little Ones

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When I am trying to get dinner on the table and find myself in need of a way to get my little “helpers” out from underfoot, I love to set them up at the table with a “mission”.  As an engineer, my solution usually entails commandeering supplies already on hand and directing my worker bees toward a structured task some might consider a “learning opportunity”.

Simple Set Up

As a result, I recently discovered how quick and easy it is to transform leftover cooked peas and toothpicks into a cheap, easy and fast project to get their hands busy and their minds occupied. Not to mention it gave me a chance to get things pulled together so we could actually eat sometime before midnight.
The part about this activity that I love the most (besides the economic benefits–less than $2.00 in supplies!) is that it really gives the kids a chance to be creative while still introducing some fundamental math and spatial lessons. Beyond drawing two dimensional shapes on paper, this activity shows my children how you can begin with two dimensional shapes and combine them to create objects in the three dimensional world.

My son did a great job looking at the following pictures and doing his best to recreate the main parts of the structure.

Diagram

Great Learning

You can help your children along at any age level by adjusting the “blue print” to build each piece individually and then help them assemble it. You can help them further by providing the right number of supplies needed for each step. For example, to build the pyramid, you lay out the eight toothpicks and 5 peas needed for construction.

The best part of this activity however, is that whether they follow the plans or just free play, they have fun and create something they are proud of! Finally, if your children are anything like Tommy’s sister, they get a nutritional boost out of it too.  My daughter was more interested in eating the construction materials then assembling anything out of them, but she kept busy and I considered it a success.  By the time they were done, dinner was ready and the clean up was easy.

Pea's Tripod

Helpful tips:

1. Use refrigerated peas for this activity. Warm peas won’t hold the toothpicks in place as well.
2. Keep a close eye on younger children using toothpicks! You don’t want anyone getting poked or any toothpicks to be eaten, trim the tips off the toothpicks with a pair of kitchen scissors if you prefer, they should still work fine for the activity.

Supplies:

1. 1 cup peas, (I use the $1.00 bag of microwave steamable peas), refrigerated.
2. Standard wood toothpicks.

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Rachel is a native Coloradoan, though originally from the Western Slope. She followed her husband Chris to his hometown of Colorado Springs after having met in engineering school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. Together they have four beautiful children, Tommy (2011), Tazzy (2014), Zach (2015) and Zinny (2018). Having a young and active family keeps Rachel on her toes trying to find ways to keep the ship sailing while still meeting all the demands of motherhood. Though Rachel loves her most important role as Mommy most, she also works full time outside the home as a Water Resources Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. This role helps keep her life centered, bouncing from detailed and complex discussions relating to Colorado Water Law with her husband ( a mechanical engineer) to daycare and preschool drop off and pick up schedules, while being constantly interrupted by the equally complex musings of her 4 year.