Winter Break Boredom Breakers

For the Warren County Library System, I did a short series of STEAM activities for families to do at home over winter break. With easy to find, inexpensive materials, each challenge encourages kids to build, create, and experiment. Try them!

Post your results on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #warrenlib. Or share on our moderated Padlet .

Day 1: Paper Chain Challenge

What to Do: Make the longest paper chain you can from a single piece of paper in just 30 minutes.

Questions: Are thick strips or thin strips best? How big do the loops need to be? How much of an overlap is needed to hold your loop together without breaking? How long do they think your paper chain will be?

Supplies: One 8.5×11 sheet of paper, scissors, ruler or tape measure, tape or glue.

The Details:

  • Take some time to plan first. You need to think about how to maximize your paper.
  • If your chain breaks while you are measuring, simply tape it back together and keep going!
  • This is a fun challenge for the whole family. Make it a friendly competition!

Need help? Take a look at these links:



Day 2: Slender Building Challenge

What to Do: Build the tallest possible paper tower with the smallest footprint.

Questions: Is it easy or hard to balance on one foot? Why do you think so? What challenges might an engineer face in building a tall building?

Supplies: 10 sheets of paper, scissors, masking tape.

The Details:

  • A building’s footprint is the area taken up by a building’s base.
  • Engineers consider a building “slender” if they have a width-to-height ratio of at least 1:10 or 1:12.
  • Evaluate your building. Measure the widest part of the base and tower’s height. Calculate the width-to-height ratio by dividing the width by the height.

Need help? Try these links:


Day 3: Paper Airplane Challenge

What to Do: Fold an airplane. Measure the distance it travels. Then tweak the plane until it flies twice as far.

Questions: How do planes stay in the air? What do planes have wings? Does a plane’s weight matter?

Supplies: 8.5×11 sheets of paper, scissors, tape (optional), paper clips (optional)

The Details:

  • Take some time to do some research. Check out the work of paper airplane champs like John Collins.
  • Consider the four forces that work on airplanes: gravity, thrust, lift, and drag.
  • Consider where you can add ballast (the paperclips) for a better flight.
  • Can you make a launcher for your airplane? Grab a rubber band and try!

Need Help? Try these links:


Day 4: Paper Bridge Challenge

What to Do: Build an 18-inch long bridge that can hold a paperback book for 10 seconds.

Questions: What different types of bridges are there? What shapes are used to build bridges? Are some shapes stronger than others?

Supplies: 6 pieces of paper, scissors, tape, 4 hardcover books, 1 paperback book, ruler

The Details:

  • Your bridge does not need to be flat. Try rolling the paper into cylinders. Fold it into square or triangular shapes. Make accordion folds. Try different shapes.
  • Use the hardcover books to hold your bridge above your table or floor. It should be at least 2 inches off the table.
  • Try combining shapes or alternate layers to make your bridge stronger.

Need help? Try these links:


Day 5: A Hole You Can Walk Through

What to Do: Using just one piece of paper, cut a hole big enough for you to walk through.

Questions: How can a piece of paper be transformed? How can you make the area of the paper stretch out over more space?

Supplies: One 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, scissors.

The Details:

  • Folding the paper in half is the key. Then try cutting straight lines from the edge into the center, but not all the way. Alternate which side you cut from.
  • When you do this the area of the sheet of paper remains the same – you haven’t changed the size of the piece of paper, but cutting the paper made the perimeter (edge) longer.

Need help? Try these links:


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