If you are casting about for activities for the kids this summer, I have the perfect resource. From designing a marble track from straws, to making a triangular truss bridge from lasagna noodles, Steven Caney’s Ultimate Building Book has it all, with instruction and commentary on how and especially why these structures can work.
You have to love a book whose section on Collecting a Resource of Building Materials includes nature, supermarket, office supply store, waste leftovers, discards and extras, and scrounged parts. Get out some boxes to store the stuff you come across. Enjoy the Equipping a Basic Toolbox section, with tips about screwdrivers, pliers and the adjustable wrench.
Does your child know about different kinds of hinges? How about a turnbuckle? Think about bridges. There are beam bridges, arch bridges, and suspension bridges, and each one has an abutment, anchorage, and deck and more fun vocabulary and theory. Also you need to know about the universally versatile yurt, followed by all sorts of other tent structures.
The book can be used at all levels: text with history of building materials and methods, and lots of projects with suggested age appropriateness. And once the use of a material is explained, readers are encouraged to use it for original projects. The perfect age for this book is probably about 9 years, but it could be used as a great way to introduce younger children to the practical use of tools and materials, and the principles of structures, tension and compression, the elements of architecture, in a fun cooperative way.