Designing Bridges

In this lesson, children will use a variety of open-ended materials to create engineering designs of bridges and then construct and test their designs.

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Develop beginning skills in the use of engineering practices such as observing, asking questions, solving problems and drawing conclusions
  • Understand important connections and concepts in engineering

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Expressing wonder and curiosity about their world by asking questions, solving problems and designing things
  • Developing and using models to represent their ideas, observations and explanations through approaches such as drawing, building or modeling with clay
  • Using nonstandard and standard scientific tools for investigation
  • Becoming familiar with technological tools that can aid in scientific inquiry
toddler in garden

Designing Bridges

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Blocks
  • Magnetic tiles
  • The book, Three Billy Goats Gruff

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Gather the children together in a large group and invite them to share what they know about bridges.
  2. After the children have shared their knowledge, introduce the book, Three Billy Goats Gruff.
  3. Ask the children what the Billy Goats Gruff need to do in the story.
  4. Read the book and discuss how the Billy Goats Gruff needed to use a bridge to get to the other side of the valley to eat.
  5. Explain to the children that they will design and build their own bridge today.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Gather the children in small groups and invite them to draw a bridge that they could build with blocks and magnetic tiles that would hold 20 linking cubes.
  2. Ask the children questions about their bridges as they draw: “What will this bridge be used for? How will people/cars/others get to the bridge? What will the bridge go over?”
  3. After the children have drawn designs of their bridges, invite them to construct their bridges using blocks and magnetic tiles.
  4. As the children build their bridges, ask questions such as: “Does this look like the original design that you drew? Do you think this will hold all 20 linking cubes?”
  5. After the children have finished constructing their bridges, invite them to observe all of the bridges and predict which bridges will hold 20 linking cubes.
  6. Invite the children to test out their designs by placing 20 linking cubes on their bridges.
  7. After all of the bridges have been tested, discuss and analyze with the children why some bridge designs worked to hold the linking cubes and why others did not.
  8. Invite the children to explore bridge building during free choice times to continue investigating bridge designs.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Predict: To guess what might happen next
  • Design: To create a plan for something that will be built
  • Test: To try out an idea to see if it works or not
  • Conclude: To make statements about what was learned after an observation or experiment
  • Analyze: To examine information in order to make conclusions

Early Science Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Have a limited vocabulary to participate in an extended analysis of bridge designs
  • Not have the emerging fine-motor skills they need to draw precise bridge plans
Child care providers may:
  • Omit extended conversations and focus on bridge construction with materials
  • Omit drawing plans before constructing bridges
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be able to use more difficult materials to construct bridges
  • Want to test bridge designs using materials other than linking cubes
Child care providers may:
  • Provide children with a variety of materials to construct bridges
  • Provide children with heavy materials to test bridges

Suggested Books

  • Pop’s Bridge by Eve Bunting
  • A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You by Cheryl Keely
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Music and Movement

  • The London Bridge Game
  • Bridge Yoga: Invite the children to think of different ways that they can pose their bodies like a bridge

Outdoor Connections

  • Take the children on neighborhood expeditions to find bridges

Web Resources

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