Museum of Science, Boston

Paper Bridge Engineering at Different Ages

Books for Kids

  • Bridges Are to Cross
    , by
    Philemon Sturges
  • Bridges: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test
    , by
    Carol A. Johmann & Elizabeth Rieth
  • Engineering the ABC's: How Engineers Shape Our World
    , by
    Patty O'Brien Novak

Contact Us

Contact the Discovery Center and Living Lab staff at livinglab@mos.org

Paper Bridge Engineering: Older Children & Adults



Paper Bridges can be a fun engineering activity for people of all ages. We provide these generalizations as guidelines about what children at different ages might do during Paper Bridge explorations at the Discovery Center’s Experiment Station, at home in your living room, kitchen, yard, or at school. Listed below are science and technology process skills that children may be practicing during their explorations. Please remember: each children develops are a different rate, so some children in each age group maybe to do some of things described in the age group before or after their own.

How might older children explore Paper Bridge Engineering?

Make Your Own Paper Bridge - Older Children & Adults

We always encourage adults to make their own paper bridges and experiment with them! Competitive experimenting can be a great way for both adults and children to get into the scientific process.

Real-world engineers work in teams, and many younger children like to work with a grown-up partner to design and create their bridges.

To make this activity more challenging for older children or adults, try designing a bridge that can withstand a "wind" storm by blowing at it when it's finished! Among other things, engineers have to consider the weather conditions the bridge could be in when they are designing and building.

Scaffold - Older Children & Adults

Adults can help young children get most of this activity by assisting children as they make their paper bridge, instead of making a bridge for them. Children will benefit most from the paper bridge building activity when they are allowed to complete as many steps toward making and testing the bridge as possible.

Ways to help:

  • Especially with younger visitors, encourage children to roll or fold the paper into shapes they’ve observed before they get too involved in using scissors (scissors are "optional" for this activity - many successful bridges can be built using the paper as-is).
  • Encourage children to redesign and retest their paper bridges.
  • Ask children to talk about some similarities and differences in the bridge pictures, models, or their peers’ bridges.
  • For very young children, make and design your own bridge, but get them involved in the construction (e.g. show them where you need them to fold) and testing (e.g. have them count out the weights and place them on the bridge).