Cardboard Tube Marble Run

Sep 23, 2012

Today we made our own, simple Marble Run from cardboard tubes. 

It was great that such a simple and fun engineering activity could include so many different learning areas like learning about gravity, angles, construction, problem solving, fine motor skills, eye tracking, speed and more.

Ages: 2-6+
(Maddie is 3.5y/o here. See the bottom of the post for ideas to simplify or extend for younger or older children)

Materials: Recycled cardboard tubes, recycled cardboard, marbles/small balls, blu/uhu tac and stickytape. (Instead of sticky-tack for adhering the tubes to the surface, a large sheet of contact paper would work well too)

If you don't have cardboard tubes you can make your own from cut up cereal boxes. 
Good fine motor skills and coordination required for little kids to do this. Give assistance where needed.

Use blu/uhu tac to affix your cardboard tubes to the door/window

The great thing about building your own Marble Run is that there is a lot of trial-and-error, therefore problem solving is required. We tried many different combinations. The testing was just as much fun as making it.

Gross motor skills involved in reaching and stretching up high.
She discovered that you did have to push the tube quite hard to ensure it stuck in place and stayed there

Putting the marbles in the top then quickly getting down the bottom to watch it fly out never got old.
I'll admit, even I couldn't draw myself away from watching it haha

This is how our finished run looked after lots of attempts and this one worked every time
This was made with very little assistance from me

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity for younger children by setting up a small run for your child. Encourage them to get involved with deciding how to place the tubes and if their suggestions will not actually allow for the marble run to work, go with it, let them try it their way and let them learn through experience that it won't work, then ask them if they can think of any better ways or show them how it will work.

- Extend this activity by having your child experiment with different angles to achieve different speeds. Time the marble's journey through your run and work on extending or decreasing the time.

- Mix it up by using a variety of different recycled materials to add interesting parts to your marble run. Try things like cut up plastic bottles, foil, plastic containers etc.

- Supervise young children with marbles. They can be a choking hazard. You may want to use small (larger than swallowing size) balls instead of marbles with younger children but always still supervise. (Plus... if you're there, you get to be an important part of their experience)

- Talk to your child about what they are making and experiencing in order to develop their cognitive skills (thinking) and language development. Not to forget the important bonding that takes place between you both.

- Ask Questions such as, "Why do you think the marble keeps shooting out of there?" "How can we make the marble go through this part?" "Why doesn't the marble keep moving here?" "How can you slow the marble down?" etc

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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