Suspension Bridge Engineering Project People on Bridge_PBS Parents
Camp PBS Parents

If your kids are anything at all like mine, your playroom (read: entire home!) is probably littered with a crazy mash-up of toys: different brands, different figures, different materials, and that one stray Polly Pocket head, the body for which is sadly forever lost.

Not that you necessarily want to introduce something ELSE into the middle of that beautiful childhood playtime chaos, but this highly creative, super simple upcycled suspension bridge engineering project will help your child learn about civil engineering AND give your Playmobil people a clear pathway to quickly go from Wooden Blockville to Heartlake City — and there’s nothing like an aesthetically pleasing and extremely practical municipal construction project to boost public morale! (Especially when your ‘public’ is only an inch tall and have removable heads!)

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What You’ll Need

  • 8 toilet paper rolls & 2 paper towel rolls
  • 4-5 CDs
  • string or yarn
  • scissors or box xutter

How to Prepare

Cut horizontal slits about an inch from the top of the 8 toilet paper rolls. Be sure to only cut half way around, this is where the CDs will slide in and make the pathway of the bridge. Cut a similar slit into the two paper towel rolls to match the toilet paper rolls (note: this slice will be toward the bottom of the taller paper towel rolls.) Then insert the CDs into the slits, making sure each is snug and secure before overlapping them to form the main structure of the bridge. Finally, make a tiny vertical slice, no more then a 1/4 inch long, into the top of each paper towel roll on the side facing the ends of the bridge and also make tiny vertical slices on the tops of the toilet paper rolls at either end of the bridge, on the part of the circle where the bridge begins. This is where the yarn will connect to give your upcycled engineering design that classic suspension bridge look!

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Things to Consider As You Build

By adding more toilet and/or paper towel rolls to this project, you can make your bridge as long as you wish, but your little engineer should keep in mind the structural integrity of the bridge and always consider the weight of those for whom the bridge is being designed. Creativity and ‘dreaming big’ is of course a big part of engineering but so is mindfulness of the intended usage and the stress the structure might come under over time. For example: this particular upcycled suspension bridge is probably not ideal for remote control cars! But ask your child what they could do to strengthen their bridge to accommodate the extra weight.

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The only thing left to do now is connect two disparate towns and play!

*While I demonstrated with some of our favorites albums from the world of kindie rock, it’s best to use only CDs you don’t mind getting scratched by tiny Playmobil feet or by the hooves of plastic horses.

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Bonus Tip

Good civil engineering isn’t just about function, but form and aesthetic too, so consider wrapping each toilet paper roll in colorful construction paper before making the slices for a post-modern or Golden Gate Bridge inspired design, or draw the outlines of bricks and stones with a marker for a medieval look perfect for knights, princesses and a cavalcade of horses. If Matchbox cars will use the bridge, consider taping a thin yellow construction paper strip down the center of the CD-paved roadway to delineate two lanes, and keep commuters safe while they cross your homemade upcycled suspension bridge!

More Creative Fun

About Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad who writes humorously about parenting and All Things Childhood on his site Out With The Kids. He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies 10 and under who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to hear, see, and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine.

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  • Jennifer Cooper

    This is so cool Jeff! It’d be a nice cooperative project for siblings/friends to create as well.

    • Jeff Bogle

      Thanks, Jennifer! You’re right, this would be a fun project for a couple of kids to work on together!

  • Josie Michaels

    This is a great idea to get children interested in engineering! I love that the materials are not from a kit, but are simple things from around the house. What a great way to encourage creativity! Growingmindsproject.blogspot.com

    • Jeff Bogle

      Thanks so much for commenting, Josie! Yeah, no kit needed here, just simple stuff most people have and end up throwing away or recycling (or in the case of CDs, let collect dust in their closet!)

  • Johnny Music

    Quite impressive!