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

Paper Bridge Engineering: Pre-schoolers

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 pre-schoolers explore Paper Bridge Engineering?

Counting and Measuring - Preschoolers

Preschoolers can count the number of weights they use, to see how much weight their bridge can hold. By this age, most children can count to at least 10 on their own.

Preschoolers can also try using a ruler to find out how wide their "valley" is. Many preschoolers will need help from a grownup to learn about how to measure something with a ruler. While most preschoolers can recognize the numbers on a tape measure or ruler, when they go to "measure" they usually place an object on a number and call it a "5" or "7", rather than actually measuring. Grownups can help by showing kids that "measuring" starts with placing one end of the thing they are measuring at the zero-end of the ruler.

Observe - Preschoolers

Preschoolers can find and identify different shapes found in real bridges, by looking at pictures or 3-dimensional models. Grownups can help children at this age notice how many bridges use triangles or half circles. Preschoolers can trace the shapes in pictures of bridges with a marker or crayon.

Preschoolers can observe other children's bridges and notice what works, and what doesn’t, in paper bridge design.

Using a balance scale can help preschoolers observe what happens when you add weight to something.

Plan & Design - PreSchoolers

Preschoolers may be able to design their own paper bridge (without a paper bridge example right in front of them) after looking at pictures, models, or other children's paper bridges.