Terrific Books to Inspire Design and Engineering PLUS Activities for Each

Last week was technically our spring break, so while our spring break didn’t involve the travel and extended family visits that we had planned, it also didn’t involve keeping up with various Zoom meetings and struggling with the technical difficulties of distance learning. Instead, we focused on life skills (the girls took turns cooking dinner each night and learning how to use knives, the stove, and the microwave safely, as well as learned both of our phone numbers, and our older daughter finally mastered tying her shoes!) and played around with some book-inspired creative design and engineering. Read on to see what books we read and how they inspired our play!

We started with three of our favorites: Chris Van Dusen’s “If I Built…” series! I mean, you really can’t go wrong with this trio of books that gets your imagination running every single time. And if you’re like us and have been collecting various odds and ends from the recycling bin to use for tinkering, then you’re good to go to create after reading these books! After reading If I Built a Car, we learned how to draw cars with the amazing artists behind Art for Kids Hub, and then the girls built their own recycled milk and egg carton cars.

When we read If I Built a School, the girls brainstormed what they’d want their dream schools to look like using graphic organizers from Do Good for First. We then also read If I Built a House and created our own schools or houses from toothpicks and leftover Easter jelly beans! (These simple structures can be built using toothpicks, straws, or skewers, as well as jelly beans, gummies, marshmallows, or any other sticky, slightly soft food.) While they had a lot of fun building their cars earlier in the week, they still wander to the kitchen counter to look with pride at their jelly bean structures!

You can also find videos of Van Dusen reading his books on his Instagram page. We watched him read If I Built a Car, and the girls loved building an association between the person behind the books and the stories themselves.

Next up, we had a design-your-own magical creature day! After reading If I Had a Gryphon, we busted out our easels (changing your drawing/writing surface from horizontal to vertical every now and then has wonderful benefits for brain coordination and development, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, arm and shoulder strength, and more!) and the girls named and designed their own magical creatures!


Our final book-inspired design activity connected to Everything You Need for a Treehouse. Similar to Van Dusen’s books, Everything You Need for a Treehouse is perfect for inspiring creativity, imagination, and dreams, encouraging children to answer the question, “If I could build any treehouse I wanted, what would it look like?” Once again, we turned to the Art for Kids Hub for a lesson on how to draw a treehouse! I also hoped the girls would design their own treehouses after learning a bit about how to draw one, but… it was a beautiful day, so we went outside to play instead!


You may have noticed that I also have Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, in my main image. We didn’t get around to reading Roxaboxen last week, but I wanted to include it just in case you’re not familiar with it, as it’s beautifully written and illustrated AND might inspire the creation of a whole imaginary town!

What other books do you love using to jump-start your children’s imagination and get them designing and engineering new things in a creative way?


All links for purchase are Amazon Affiliate links. Thank you for considering making a purchase through my links!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s