Inside: Use this STEAM activity to extend LEGO play to include science and art. Directing golf balls through the LEGO arch filled with paints combines the science of aerodynamics (interaction of air and bodies moving through it), engineering (constructing the arch), hand-eye coordination, and process art.
I’ve never been a fan of LEGO play in the kitchen. You know how it goes: after half an hour, five LEGO pieces turn into five hundred, and the final structure is so important “it can never be moved. EVER.” Why? Because the safety of the entire world is dependent on the integrity of this very composition. Of course.
So for the weeks that follow, everyone is eating their meals around the precious LEGO composition (it becomes “precious” the moment the first five pieces connect), and the pile of bread crumbs around the edges of the structure is growing bigger. Since mom’s hands are never allowed to come in contact with her kids’ LEGO creations (something about cross-contamination with hand lotion that is not removed even after extensive hand washing), the only solution is to shut her eyes whenever she gets close. Until someone (I bet it is the cat) accidentally breaks off some important piece. What a naughty cat, ahem. And it means the whole structure has to be taken down and re-assembled in some ‘safer” location. Why didn’t I think of that!
In my house, we have a large room dedicated solely to LEGO that my oldest son (the most obsessed LEGO fan of them all) cleans himself. (And let me just state that he does an amazing job. He carefully wipes dust around each structure with lightly moistened toilet paper. Yep!).
However, sometimes getting LEGO bricks out of the LEGO room stimulates the imagination in a whole new way.
Easy and Exciting STEAM Activity
The exact moment when a bunch of LEGO bricks left the LEGO room and ended up on the kitchen table escaped my attention.
All I can tell you is that one day my middle son could be observed sitting at the kitchen table trying to direct golf balls through the LEGO arch he’d just put together, while my youngest daughter was painting with tempera paints next to him. You never interrupt such an idyllic picture of sibling bliss AND science experimentation to inquire how LEGO pieces traveled there in the first place. Never.
My son’s sciency twist was that he moved the balls through the arch by blowing on them in different ways: i.e., around the edges of the book he was holding sideways and through the rolled-up paper.
And to complete the setting of the scene, let me add that the whole table was covered by a huge piece of paper to protect it from artistic spills. I buy a roll of a magnificent multi-purpose paper from Oriental Trading Company online store.
I don’t know who suggested it first, but soon a few piles of paints were placed in front of the arch.
Soon, my kids realized that paint created resistance, and they needed more effort to direct balls through the narrow arch.
Blowing on balls, even together, didn’t get the job done anymore!
So out came additional tools. Spoons, Popsicle sticks, straws, anything that could be used as a weapon for their exploration was put to use.
Was the arch knocked over a couple of times? Maybe. But don’t worry! It’s easy to clean.
However, we were all blown away by how pretty the mixed colors looked together. My kids kept saying, “Mom! It’s so beautiful! Do you see it! Do you see how beautiful it is!”
The popsicle sticks were a big hit with everyone.
STEAM activity with soft golf balls and LEGO
This is an open-ended activity that is perfect for keeping kids busy for a very long time. Kids have so much fun that they don’t even know they’re practicing hand-eye coordination, aerodynamics, engineering skills, and honing their artistic talents.
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What you need
LEGO bricks to build an arch
Golf balls (we buy soft ones)
Paints (I linked exactly the one we used in this activity)
Tools (popsicle sticks, spoons, straws, sticks, etc)
Two books, a rolled piece of paper (optional items to make things more exciting)
What to do
- The first step is to build a LEGO arch or maybe a LEGO arch bridge. Kids can play around with bricks, try different ideas, and use a method that works best for them. If the arch falls down too easily, what can be done to make it sturdier?
- Once you have the arch, place a golf ball in front of it and use your breath to send the ball through. Invite kids to do the same. Introduce various ways of concentrating the airflow, e., through a rolled-up piece of paper, a wide straw, between two books or magazines held on the each side of your mouth, or even cupping hands around your mouth. (Read a great introduction to the science of air flow).
- Finally, the colorful phase! Pour some paint in front of the arch. (My daughter picked a bunch of different colors and kept adding more of them throughout the project). Place the ball in the paint and try to blow it through the arch. Yep, it’s not going to work since the ball will pretty much be completely stuck in the paint. But it’s okay. Have some popsicle sticks and spoons ready to push the ball through the arch.
Of course, the balls look so deliciously messy it’s hard to resist the temptation to touch them with your bare hands.
Our evening ended with painting the whole arch and the rest of the paper. Both my son and my daughter enjoyed making the mess and using LEGO bricks in a novel way. I hope your kids did, too. Let me know.
There is no right or wrong way to do this activity. And don’t worry: the cleanup is a breeze. It took less than five minutes to rinse the LEGO blocks and peel the paper off the kitchen table.
Looking for more LEGO inspiration?
This post is part of Your Year of Kids Activities series!
January: Indoor Kids Activities
February: Dr. Seuss
March (this post): LEGO
April (coming up next): STAR WARS