Library Mary

Early Literacy Advocate, Champion of Diversity in Children's Literature

Fairy tales benefit young children in many ways. The magical stories engage the imagination, which instills a love of reading. Their rich vocabulary also helps children learn words we don’t use in everyday conversation. Children who enter school with a rich vocabulary are likely to become strong readers.

I recently discovered that fairy-tale activities also can help children develop engineering skills. Here are a couple of fairy tales you can use to explore structural engineering. In other words, you get to build what you read about.

Once upon a story time, we read The Three Little Pigs. After the story, I gave children materials to build the little pigs’ houses. We used drinking straws for the straw house, popsicle sticks for the stick house, and blocks for the brick house.

After we had built these houses, we used a hair dryer to create wolf-strength breath. Then we talked about which building material was the strongest. This would be a fun and easy activity to duplicate at home.

I borrowed this idea from Amy Koester’s The Show Me Librarian blog. You can read more about it here:  Children’s librarians are Amy’s target audience, but she also has some helpful posts that explain how children’s books can promote math and science skills.  

At another story time, we read The Three Billy Goats Gruff, then built bridges for the goats to cross. We talked again about which building materials were the strongest: blocks, popsicle sticks, or straws? Some creative young engineers also added a house for the troll to live in. 

I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs, The Imagination Tree. Parents are the target audience; in fact, its author is a stay-at-home mom with early childhood education experience. This post provides some questions you can ask as you build, and identifies the different skills your children will learn in the process:

Happy reading and building!