The provocation: A bowl of gumdrops and a handful of toothpicks.

gumdrop sculptures

The first question: “Can I eat these?”

Oh yeah, I guess they do kind of look like a snack.

gumdrop sculptures

The second provocation (after we each ate a gumdrop, just to get that elephant out of the room): A square base of four gumdrops, attached together with four toothpicks, and one more toothpick sticking straight up out of the base.

And with that, the race gates opened and the horses were off! Without saying another word, N quickly understood the challenge and got right to work. And what small child on a minor sugar high wouldn’t be excited to work with colorful toothpicks and rainbow-colored gumdrops?

Notice little sister in the background. I promise some baby-related activities one day soon.

gumdrop sculptures

A few months back I set up a similar provocation with marshmallows and toothpicks, and while we were able to build some simple structures, it was a small flop. It’s easy enough to pierce the marshmallows with toothpicks, but they don’t do as good of a job holding a complex structure together. I also tested jellybeans, but the hard candy surface wasn’t forgiving enough. The gumdrops are really malleable and my daughter didn’t need too much of my help manipulating them. So empowering!

gumdrop sculptures

She decided this structure was a cable car — we live near San Francisco, after all — so we found a couple passengers interested in taking a ride.

gumdrop sculptures

After she built this form she exclaimed, “It’s a pitched roof!!” Ah, I love witnessing the transfer of knowledge. You never know when these moments are going to hit, and it’s so fun to be there when they do.

gumdrop sculptures

And this is what she accomplished before it was time to get dinner ready. After dinner she and her dad kept working on these, and then there was more building the next day. As the structures got bigger and more complex, we talked about the strength of triangles, which added a a new dimension to what she was able to build. Stay tuned for day two!

More on the science behind this project can be found through one of my very favorite sites (and places to visit), The Exploratorium: Geodesic Gumdrops.



  1. Those books that you suggested look great—-we would love them. We’ve done the marshmallow idea too and that was fun. You always make something so simple look so amazing! Thanks for all the great articles about kids and creativity. You are such a wonderful resource!

    • Thanks for that, Melissa 🙂 You know how to warm a girl’s heart.

  2. here. here. I agree with Melissa.
    this is a great reward project for Simone, because I know every gum drop will be eaten before the project is done. (she’s been incredibly patient while her brother and I have been terribly sick. so your timing is once again bang on rachelle)

    • i’m so glad that this will work for you and simone. i also worried that n would eat all the gum drops, and was surprised that she stopped at just one! you never know…

  3. Love it! This is a Discovery Box activity for sure! Open ended, playful curiosity. And well done on eating so few! We would have scoffed the lot! ha ha

    • this could definitely be a discovery box activity! i was floored that she didn’t submerge herself in the bowl of gum drops. maybe the timing with meals was just right!

  4. wonderful! we are very in to experiments and building of all sorts this year. your blog has been such a fabulous resource. thank you so much for all of your wonderful ideas.

    • Thanks for the super nice comment, Susan! This blog is such a fun project and it warms my heart to hear that it’s got some legs into the world outside my home 🙂

  5. How fun! It reminds me of molecular model sets we got to play with in chemistry class. In fact, my oldest daughter would enjoy this as a fun science lesson. Her curiosity is seemingly insatiable!

Comments are closed.