Need an easy way to help kids build engineering skills they’ll need for their STEM future? These 24 printable challenge cards are perfect to use in STEM centers, makerspaces, or math stations. Kids will love learning about 2 and 3-dimensional STEP structures as they build and analyze each toothpick STEM structure!

Grab your set in our shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers!  And for more STEM fun, check out our Epic STEM Challenge Bundle!

Getting Ready

There are two versions of the cards – one focusing on 2-dimensional shapes and a second set working on 3-dimensional shapes.

Since I was prepping the activity for Big Brother (age 6.5) and Middle Brother (age 5), I printed both sets and made copies of the follow up record sheets.

I cut along the faint grey lines to separate the challenge cards and then laminated them to make the set reusable.

We’re notorious for losing pieces, so I punched a hole in the lefth-and corner of each card and bound them together with a ring.

Toothpick structure challenge cards!

Then, I grabbed a box of toothpicks, some playdough and a dry erase marker. We were ready to build the toothpick STEM structures!

Building Toothpick STEM Structures

I introduced the activity by giving the boys the red and white striped 2-dimensional cards so they could gain confidence and get a solid grasp of the activity.

They used the toothpicks and playdough to build each shape.

Then they counted the number of sides and vertices and wrote the number of each in the blank boxes.

It took quite awhile to build all fourteen 2D shapes but, when they did, I pointed out the alphabet letters in the upper left-hand corner of each card and showed them how to transfer their answers onto their record sheets.

The next day, the boys were eager to take the challenge one step further! I handed over the cards again and had them flip to the 3-dimensional shapes.  These were going to be even bigger toothpick STEM structures!

They were thrilled with the challenge of building unusual cubes, pyramids and prisms!

Just like before, they labeled the number of edges and vertices for each shape and then transferred their answers to the record sheet when they were finished.

Grab Your Set

Add some hands-on fun to STEM learning! Grab your toothpick STEM cards in our shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Then, don’t forget to snag our Epic STEM Challenge Bundle, tooo!

Purchase Here

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  1. It would be nice if I could buy them as pdf-file, for shipping it to the Netherlands is a bit expensive I guess…. Is that a possibility? Thnx for letting me know.

  2. Ah, check, I should learn how to read… I think they are printable, right? It’s just not that easy to get my address right in the shop-form…

  3. Great activity! This even works well with older kids learning the shapes of molecules. A very popular variation is using marshmallows instead of playdough for the vertices – packing up involves ‘disposing’ of the marshmallows! 🙂

    1. Yes! I think “cleaning up” their marshmallows would definitely be their favorite part!
      Ashley // Happiness Ambassador

  4. I think they are printable, right? Also, this even works well with older kids learning the shapes of molecules.

    1. Yes it is a printable, you are correct David! Older kids would love this as well. Thanks so much for visiting!

      Kaylee // Playdough to Plato Team

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