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Toothpick Towers Tips and Tricks

This toothpick towers challenge, with only two materials, is the best ever.  

Yes, you have heard me say that many times, but this time I mean it.  

It is fun. It is hard. Really hard. And the kids want it to work so much. They persevere. They start over. They never give up. It’s pretty perfect.   

It’s the great Toothpick Tower Challenge!

Toothpick Towers STEM Challenge is a perfect STEM activity- two materials and very challenging! This will encourage collaboration and perseverance.

You really only need two materials!

Now, having said that, I also do this one in two different ways. Both use toothpicks and I have some tips about those!

Toothpick Towers are the best! Kids love to build and stack items to create the tallest possible tower. With this Toothpick Tower challenge, they also have to be diligent in maintaining a solid base and must constantly rethink the task. This is one of our favorites!

BEST PHOTO EVER

At different times of the day, our STEM Lab gets an abundance of brilliant sunshine. It’s enough that we frequently move two lab tables to get the kids out of the sun. I cannot block that light because it comes from a dome so we just deal with it. And take great pictures.

Take a look at the one to the left! And then I will tell you the truth about the photo…

Isn’t that fabulous?

Now, for the truth about the photo. The young man that made that little creation was not building anything. He was just playing. I snapped the picture and then fussed a little.

THE FIRST VERSION OF TOOTHPICK TOWERS

Toothpick Towers are the best! Kids love to build and stack items to create the tallest possible tower. With this Toothpick Tower challenge, they also have to be diligent in maintaining a solid base and must constantly rethink the task. This is one of our favorites!
STEM Toothpick Towers - Students use the materials to build a bridge to span a specific gap. You determine the length of that gap. The resource also includes an alternate method of using a blueprint as part of the requirements.

For toothpick towers version number 1 – we use toothpicks and modeling dough. I have a couple of tips or you about this!

TIP: Round toothpicks work best, but they are very sharp. They can stab into your fingers if you are not careful. So, I always warn the kids about this. Flat toothpicks are less likely to stab you but they are a little flimsy.  

TIP: Modeling dough can be tricky. Kids love it and they love to make those long skinny worms out of the dough. But, the more you play with dough the warmer it gets, and the warmer it gets, the more flimsy it is as a building material. So, hands-off!

BUILDING TECHNIQUES FOR TOOTHPICK TOWERS

STEM Toothpick Towers - Students use the materials to build a bridge to span a specific gap. You determine the length of that gap. The resource also includes an alternate method of using a blueprint as part of the requirements.
STEM Toothpick Towers - Students use the materials to build a bridge to span a specific gap. You determine the length of that gap. The resource also includes an alternate method of using a blueprint as part of the requirements.

Kids try all sorts of ways to connect with toothpicks. I love watching them!  

In the above photos (on the left) one team member builds the pieces while another connects them! Great way to learn about an assembly line!   On the right are several more ways to connect!    

Invariably, the toothpick towers that succeed are the ones with a great base and not much dough at the top. Modeling dough is heavy!

TOOTHPICK TOWERS VERSION #2

STEM Toothpick Towers - Students use the materials to build a bridge to span a specific gap. You determine the length of that gap. The resource also includes an alternate method of using a blueprint as part of the requirements.

This one came about accidentally- when I forgot to buy modeling dough and had some mini-marshmallows on hand. (I have no clue why I had them!)  

We also added a twist to this version. Students had to draw a blueprint of their tower before they could build it. Then they had to build it exactly like the blueprint!

I’d say the team in this photo dod a great job!

TIP: Marshmallows are completely different than modeling dough. They can be very sticky so keep some wet washcloths on hand. This will help clean sticky fingers and your tabletops.

TIP: Open the fresh bag of marshmallows and let them dry out a little before you use them. They can be very flimsy when too fresh!

Whichever version you try with this toothpick towers challenge, I promise, your kids will love it!

Two materials = win-win!

You might also like these tower challenges:

Toothpick Towers STEM Challenge is a perfect STEM activity- two materials and very challenging! This will encourage collaboration and perseverance.