Pickup Challenge: Discovery at Home

What you need:

  • Tongue depressors.
  • Paint mixing sticks.
  • Dowel rods.
  • Ping pong balls.
  • Tennis balls.
  • Pool noodle pieces.
  • Bucket.


  1. Pick a set of sticks to use first.
  2. Try to pick up as many balls and place them in the bucket using only your two tools.
  3. Try picking up the different sets of balls and compare.
  4. Keep testing to see what works and what does not work as well.

Ways to Expand the Activity:

  • Use two different sticks. What happens when you pair a tongue depressor with a dowel rod? Is that easier or more difficult?
  • Add some distance between you and the bucket. Can you still carry the ball easily with your stick tools?

What Kids Learn:

  • Hand eye coordination. Young children can use activities like this to help improve communication between their minds and bodies.
  • Interactions between materials. What happens when you try to pick up a ball that has a smoother surface?
  • Experimentation! When kids experiment, they're learning how to learn. Failure is an important part of experimenting, so let kids try things that won’t work. It’s how they figure things out!
  • Spatial or visual thinking. Being able to imagine the positions of objects and how they interact is an important skill for learning math.