Library Blog

STEAM Cup Challenges

cups stacked in tower
Spread the love

Even before we were staying at home all of the time, many families were gathering once a week or more to have family get-togethers. Whether you watch a movie that you finally agree upon, or gather around the table for a board game, there are many activities that can bond you as a family. How about including some STEAM activities into your family night, to challenge your brain? Not sure what STEAM means? STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. The great thing is that many activities you are doing already can fit into these categories, such as counting, planning, building, and creating. While you are having fun, acting silly, exhibiting some friendly competition, and of course strengthening that important interpersonal bond, you can also exercise your brains. Here are some family friendly STEAM challenges using inexpensive plastic cups to incorporate into your family night:


The Hands-Free Stacking Cup Challenge

This works best for 3-6 people. You can take turns if there are more than 6 people in your group. It is a great exercise in teamwork.
For this challenge, you will need:

  • 6 cups (I recommend investing in a large pack of disposable drinking cups. You can use them for many different activities, and they are an inexpensive supply to add to your craft and activity arsenal.)
  • yarn, string, or thin twine
  • A fat rubber band (this works best if it fits nicely around the base of the cups you are using)


You will first need a piece of string cut to 1-2 feet in length, one for each person. Tie each piece of string to the rubber band, equal distances apart. Each person will hold onto one of the strings. The goal of this challenge is to stack the cups in a pyramid shape (with 3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, and 1 on the top), but the catch is that no one can touch the cups with their hands or any part of their bodies, even if they fall on the floor!

So, each person would pull lightly on their string at the same time, and try to pick up an upside-down cup, and place it in the pyramid. You would move away from each other to make the rubber band stretch, and then towards each other to make it fit snugly around the cup.










Do this one cup at a time to build the pyramid. If you can do this easily, consider timing yourselves!










The Blow Cup Challenge

In this challenge, you will move one cup that is stacked inside of another cup by blowing it into a cup sitting across from it.
For this challenge, you will need:

  • 3 plastic cups that are the same (you can experiment with different sizes of cups, just make sure to use 3 of the same size and type)
  • water (start with a little bit, but you can experiment with different amounts)


You start by filling a plastic cup with a little bit of water, then place an empty cup inside. Then place another empty cup across from the two stacked cups, starting with an inch or two of distance.











The goal is to move the inner cup to the cup across from it, using only your breath, not your hands.




















You can experiment with different levels of water and how far apart you place the cups. One tip that might provide better success is to blow downward, in between the two cups that are stacked together.



The “Tall as an Adult” Challenge

This challenge has simple directions, but is not always so simple to complete, especially when several people are working on it at the same time!
For this challenge, you will need:


  • A lot of plastic cups (50-100?)
  • An even building surface (tile, hardwood, and flatter carpets work best)









Build a pyramid out of your cups, trying to make it as tall as the tallest person in the house. This challenge will require steady hands and teamwork.
If you succeed, try to see if you can build the pyramid in a set amount of time. Also, you can increase the competition and make teams to race against each other.


See what other types of STEAM activities you can come up with for your next Family night!


STEAM Resources

Be sure to check out our catalog for these titles:

100 Easy STEAM Activities

Awesome STEM Science Experiments


And don’t forget about digital titles, like these from Hoopla. Perfect for school or family time at home!

Here are some titles you might like:

STEAM Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke

Music: the Sound of Science by Margaret Albertson

Earth-Friendly Animal Crafts by Veronica Thompson



Romie is currently the Systemwide Floating Librarian for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, which means she gets to work at almost all of the buildings in the system! When not working, she loves reading mystery novels, general fiction, and Young Adult realistic fiction. She always has a supply of cups close at hand for crafts and activities. The possibilities are endless!