Creative, Fun & Free: 3 Design Challenge Activities for Families

By Megan Skipworth, Chapin High School, El Paso Independent School District
May 4, 2020 1:30 PM ET
Press Release

As schools and districts make the shift to remote instruction, students and their families need access to quality resources that are both engaging and fun – design challenges are a great example.

Design thinking helps learners solve real-world problems using creativity and critical thinking skills. 

To help your family stay busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve compiled three design challenge activities from TGR EDU: Explore that will allow your student to explore, design and test solutions at home. 


Design thinking requires learners to get creative and think critically. Getting inventive with solutions isn’t a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Trial and error is a critical piece of the learning process.  

Each challenge outlined below uses everyday household items, but feel free to switch them out with similar items you have at home.

Invent a Vehicle

Challenge: Develop a new vehicle for transporting hazardous waste to a safe place on land.

What You’ll Need…

  • Paper 
  • 6 drinking straws 
  • Square of cardboard 
  • Clothespins 
  • 5 mailing labels 
  • 10 rubber bands 
  • Newspaper 
  • 6 toothpicks 
  • 3 cardboard tubes 
  • 20 marbles (these will act as the “hazardous waste”)

Reflective Questions

  • How does it work? 
  • How does this challenge apply to the real world?

Redesign Challenge

  • Your delivery route has become flooded. How would you redesign the vehicle to transport the hazardous waste over land and water?

Design a Parachute

Challenge: Design a parachute that can hold weight and descend slowly. The parachute can vary in shape and size. Take into consideration air resistance and the amount of weight being used. The parachute must drop from a height of five feet.

What You’ll Need…

  • 1 sheet of newspaper 
  • 1 pair of scissors 
  • Tape 
  • 1 24” length of string 
  • Weights (Pennies)

Reflective Questions

  • Describe how your parachute works.
  • If you could have had access to items that were different than those provided, what would you have requested and why?

Redesign Challenge

  • Change one variable on your parachute so that it stays in the air the longest.

Now, Let’s Reflect…

After completing each design challenge activity, consider the following overall reflective questions:

  • What were some interesting discoveries you made while working on the design challenge activities?
    • About the problems? About yourself?
  • What were some of the difficulties you encountered during the activities?
    • What made them difficult?
  • What were some learning moments?
    • What made them so?
  • How can you use what you have learned in the future?

Launched in partnership between Discovery Education and TGR Foundation, TGR EDU: Explore is a program that provides no-cost, project-based experiences and lesson plans, allowing students to explore their interests, while equipping educators and families with instructional materials. 

Explore more learning activities, interactive student experiences and meaningful family discussion starters at