A few weekends back my daughter and I were visiting the Hall of Science in Queens NY and got the pleasure of building a Marble Run in one of their hands-on labs. Just in case you aren’t familiar with what a marble run is, it’s a series of tubes, rails, funnels, etc that are put together so a marble can be ‘run’ through it. It’s a great project for teaching concepts like gravity and angles.
We had a lot of fun adding, testing, and adjusting to get the perfect angles for the marble to pass through and ultimately end up in our cup on the floor. Since a marble run can pretty easily be made from household items, we figured, why not make our own and continue the fun and learning at home.
A Side Note about the Hall of Science…for any parents living in the NYC area or thinking about visiting, it is truly an awesome place for kids and adults to explore and learn about science while having fun! There are tons of interesting exhibits as well as hands-on labs where you can pop in and create whatever the theme of the lab is (they provide the supplies). I definitely suggest giving it a try! We now have a membership since we go that often.
Ok, back to the marble run…I took a picture and sent it to my husband. He is really creative as well, not to mention a master carpenter, so he took on the task of building an awesome peg board to tape the marble run pieces to. Thank you, hunny!! If you don’t have someone with building skills in your home, that’s ok. A firm piece of wood, peg board, cardboard, etc will work. I have even seen marble runs that use a door or wall to secure everything to. Just be careful to test the wall/door first with the masking tape to make sure it doesn’t leave a mark or remove any paint. Once you know what you’ll be securing everything to, here are the rest of the supplies.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- Masking Tape – I suggest a few rolls because no one wants to run out of tape.
- Tubes – Toilet paper and paper towel rolls make great, and free, tubes. We also purchased a few PVC plumbing angles for $1-3 dollars from the hardware store.
- Rails – Cardboard or any other firm, but cuttable material will make a great rail with a bit of tape.
- Funnels – If you have any plastic bottles lying around, cut off the bottom and you’ll have some funnels.
- Paper – Cardstock works best, but any small piece will make a great shield for bouncing marbles
- Dowels – (Optional: If you are using a peg board) Make sure to pick a size that fits snugly in the peg board holes, but can be added or remove from the board easily by youthful hands. Cut or break them into 3-3.5″ lengths.
NOTE: Most of the marble run pieces attach to the board fine with just masking tape. If you would like to use heavier pieces like the PVC piping, the peg board and dowels are extremely handy at taking most of the weight of the pieces.
Building the Marble Run
Once you have gathered all of the supplies, now comes the fun part…building the marble run piece by piece. My daughter’s 4, so we pick out the pieces together and tape and adjust as needed.
- Tape up one piece at a time and then test with your marble to see that it runs through it ok. It’s disappointing to put a number of pieces together only to realize that an angle is wrong at the beginning and you have to start over again.
- This may seem like an obvious one, but start at the top. Things fall from top to bottom with gravity, so building the same way is easier.
- Put one marble down the run at a time (or at least a sec or two before starting the next one). My daughter was super enthusiastic and put all of our marbles down the run at the same time and of course, they got stuck. Fortunately, we can move our board, so I could tip it to get the marbles out. If your board is more permanent, then you might need to dismantle it to get everything out.
- UPDATE: If you do have a child, like mine, who insists on putting all of the marbles down at once, make sure a funnel is at the top. It will spread out most of the marbles, so they can get through smoother.
Here is our first marble run…
And now our third one (which is still in use)…
I hope you and your kids enjoy building your marble run(s). I must say, I’m pretty addicted too!