DIY Marble Run

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children practice problem solving and creative thinking skills | TinkerLab.com

DIY Marble Run Supplies

To keep this simple (I like simple), this is all you will need:

  • Cardboard rolls
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Marble/s or small rolling objects
  • Scissors
  • Bowl or basket

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Decorate your DIY Marble Run rolls (optional)

For this DIY marble run, we started by wrapping the paper towel and toilet paper rolls with colored masking tape. This step is purely decorative, but it added some pizazz to the design and kept my daughter busy for a good part of a morning. Totally worth it, in my estimation.

We had fun layering and wrapping tape, selecting colors, and cutting the rolls. Once the rolls were appropriately covered, I took a pair of scissors and cut the tubes in half, right down the center. N thought this looked like fun so she jumped in on the cutting action too.

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Find some clear wall space

Set your marble run up on an empty wall, large window, or sliding glass door.

We found some wall space, taped the highest tube to a spot that N could easily reach, and kept on taping rolls until we had something we were happy with.

Test as you go

The trick to making the marble run work is to test it as you go. Marbles move fast and like to fly right out of the tubes if they’re not positioned to catch speedy marbles. We tested the sections of our DIY marble run a few times to work out the angles and distances. This is a fabulous math and physical science lesson!

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Watch the magic happen

Once we got it to a place that seemed to work, N dropped in her marble and stood back to watch the magic happen.

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Add a basket to catch your marbles

We needed something to catch the balls (and jellybeans!), and a strawberry basket was just right for the job.

Build a marble run from recyclables to encourage problem-solving and creative thinking | TinerkLab.com

Experiment

  • Try rolling other objects down the chute. How do they compare to the marbles?
  • Make chutes out of other objects such as cut-up  + folded cardboard boxes or folded paper. What material/s make for the best chutes?
  • Build a marble run inside a large cardboard box.

Comments

  1. sarah says

    We did this when we visited my mom. She doesn’t have a ton of toys for the kids but she saved all her tubes and containers. We ended up putting a tin foil ball through some of the runs and some dry pasta. This project kept us busy for days! I think it is time we do it again. Thanks for the great reminder.

    • rachelle says

      this is so cool, sarah! thanks for sharing the photo. i especially like all of the entry points. how fun!

  2. says

    This is very nice!
    I love it, and will try it in a few days with my children.
    One idea for a marble game I learned from my friend and former assistant director, was to cut small curved doors in several shoe boxes, and just roll the marbles on the floor through the boxes.
    I might make some of her ideas and post them. I’ll let you know if I can get to it.
    Brenda

    • rachelle says

      so glad this inspired you, brenda :) i didn’t think to use shoe boxes. we’ll have to try that next time i have empty boxes in the house.

  3. says

    I was going through my supplies for my classroom today, want to use things up before the end of the year. We are definitely trying this next week!!!

  4. says

    love this one! great to see you again on Craft Schooling Sunday! I’ve actually been in Berkeley for two weeks so you may notice a little No.Cal flavor to my posts! all the best.

    I DID notice that, Sara! Are you from the Bay Area? I love your blog, and always get great ideas from you and your readers.

  5. says

    Oh my goodness I love Sarah’s idea that she posted above :)

    Anyway, Rachelle – I featured this on this week’s It’s Playtime – all about upcycling items and this one is so much fun :)

    Jamie

    I know, I love Sarah’s idea too! Thanks for including us on It’s Playtime, Jamie – what a great collection of play ideas!

  6. Amy says

    Love this! I’m always looking for science demos that I can do for my toddler/preschool library story time groups. I can set it up ahead of time and let the families experiment with it after I finish my presentation. Even better to suggest jelly beans. Safety with the little ones is tricky with some science demos that I’d love to try.
    Thank you!
    Amy L

  7. kelly says

    i’ve been wanting to do this for so long! except i was going to glue magnets to the toilet rolls so they’d stick to a metal sheet. thanks for sharing :)

  8. says

    All the time. My little one is a bit older, now he likes to build bigger with pvc. We’ve even done one with aquarium tubing that went all around the basement. Bit more of a rube goldberg in some places and super fun. I should do a write up.

    • rachelle says

      Children evolve with time and experience. I would love to see a write up — please send me a link if you remember.

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