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