Inside: Leprechaun Trap Engineering Challenge will get kids thinking creatively, practicing their problem-solving skills, and will add a little magic to this often-overlooked holiday. Scroll down to download STEAM Challenge Cards. They offer a fun way to explore and experiment with Leprechaun traps, rainbows, pots of gold, and more.
St. Patrick’s Day is a great holiday for integrating some exciting STEAM activities. It offers a great excuse to explore the magic of rainbows, the science of making pancakes green without store-bought artificial colorings, and of course, the art of engineering a perfect Leprechaun trap.
A leprechaun, a bearded little man wearing a green coat and a hat, is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. If you catch one, you can ask for three wishes, become instantly lucky in everything you do, or get your hands on Leprechaun gold.
Leprechauns, however, are famously difficult to catch, so good luck catching one!
However, inventing and setting traps is super exciting and fun in itself. Every year come March, my kids spend at least an hour each day designing, building, inventing, and testing traps.
In the past, I’ve often acted as a facilitator, sparking ideas, distributing supplies, and asking questions like:
What can you use to build a trap?
Why do you think this idea is not working?
What can you add to this trap to make it more stable?
What do you think is the best material to make it work the way you envisioned it?
Nowadays it’s enough to say, “St. Patrick’s Day is coming up” to get my kids going at sixty miles an hour. All I do now is to say “yes” or “no” to various materials they find around the house. Can I use your hairdryer for my trap? Mmmm, well ok, but with caution. Can I use steak knives? Absolutely not. Candle? No. Ketchup? Maybe …
St. Patrick’s Day Engineering Challenge
If your kids don’t know where to start with Leprechaun traps, I suggest setting it up as a challenge. Set out some common everyday supplies and challenge kids to build a leprechaun trap using your design specifications.
Challenge #1: Cereal Box Trap
Your first challenge might be building a Leprechaun trap using a cereal box. Some additional supplies for this challenge can be tape, glue, scissors, gold coins, glitter, construction paper, tissue paper garland, and markers.
We put together eight challenges (you can find instructions on how to download them below), but I recommend no more than one challenge per day!
What to do
Invite your budding engineers to build a trap using a cereal box and other common things from around the house. Why? They say if you are lucky enough to catch a Leprechaun he will share his gold with you.
As you can see, our cereal box trap is very colorful. That’s because we simply covered it with bright craft paper. We also added a popsicle-stick ladder and cut a trap door. The idea is that a gold coin at the top of the ladder will convince the leprechaun that there is more gold inside, but once he makes the first step off the ladder, he will slide right down the paper roll tube glued on the inside of the box and be caught.
Challenge #2: Milk Cartoon Leprechaun Trap
What you need
Washed and dried milk cartoon
LEGO or LEGO DUPLO pieces
Challenge: Design a Leprechaun trap using an empty milk carton and other things from around the house.
Our trap is a water well filled with gold coins. We went for a walk earlier in the day and found a nice stick to use as a dowel. We tied a pot of gold (read: yogurt container) to the dowel with a string. As we turn the dowel inside the well, the pot of gold goes up or down to lure the Leprechaun in. A good lesson in physics and balance as well!
Challenge #3: St. Patrick’s Day Cake Trap
What you need
Ingredients to make a cake, or sweet treats like cookies, candy, or sugar cubes
Challenge: As we all know, Leprechauns like to eat sweets, so your kids can use food as bait to catch one.
Our idea this year was to place a cookie on a plate then prop up a box over it. When the sneaky Leprechaun comes to check out the delicious smell of chocolate chips, a snappity-snap trap will pop closed, trapping him inside.
In the past, our food trap was a hollowed cake filled with sticky frosting. We made a Chex bridge over the opening in the center. The idea was that Chex is going to collapse under the weight of Leprechaun, and that he was going to end up in the sticky goo below. It didn’t exactly work, but the cake was delicious, even with the bits of Chex stuck to it.
STEAM Challenge Cards
Our STEAM challenge cards contain four Leprechaun Trap challenges + four additional challenges (i.e., to build a Rainbow and to design a Leprechaun Discovery Bottle).
To get the FREE printable STEAM cards, enter your email here and I will send you the link. Or PIN the cards for later!