Who isn't fascinated by a marble run? Kids love to watch the tiny ball travel back and forth as it moves through the tubing. Parents can appreciate the engineering and design that go into these simple devices. You certainly could buy a marble run from a store, but you'll have more fun making your own (plus everybody will learn a thing or two along the way).
This project helps kids think about basic engineering and mechanical concepts through hands-on experience-see gravity in action!
Start with a sturdy, large piece of cardboard as your base, and then raid the recycling bin for discarded paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Decide on a color scheme for your marble run and paint each of the components separately using poster or tempura paints and allow the paint to dry completely. (Or skip this step and just use the raw cardboard to make your creation.)
Lay out all the various tubes and think about how you want to design your marble run. Keep in mind each piece needs to slope into the next and the marble needs to be able to travel continuously. Use scissors to cut small openings that will allow the marble to drop into a lower tube to transition from row to row.
Don't glue any pieces to the cardboard until you are sure that your design works (run your marbles through it a few times to make sure it functions as it should).
An adult can use a sturdy craft glue or a hot glue gun to attach each component to the cardboard. Once the glue has dried, check your marble run for any loose spots and apply additional glue before you get started. Over time, the marble run may need occasional glue touch-ups.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
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