Paper Plate Marble Track


Paper plate marble track

We just can’t get enough of marble tracks at our house!  I almost bought the boys a nice wooden set last Christmas, but I’m so glad I didn’t!  Making our own has been more fun, and it’s different every time!  Last year, we made a marble run with paper towel tubes and other items from the recycle bin, and this summer we made one out of pool noodles.

When I saw the “marble coaster” idea in the Sept. 2012 Family Fun magazine, I knew we had to try it!  They used rims cut from paper plates to make the track.  What a genius idea!

 The magazine says to cut the rims off some paper plates.  Then, create a track design by using paper towel rolls as supports.  They cut their first support at 0.5 inch, then 1 inch, then 1.5 inches, etc.  They used glue dots to attach the supports to the track.

Well, we didn’t have any glue dots (we’ve never tried those, actually – are we missing out?) and we only had one paper towel roll which Owen partially ruined by cutting while I was working on the plates. So, we supplemented with supports built from wooden blocks.

Note: The first plates I bought did not work.  The plain white plates don’t have a rim that works for a track.  Look for plates with a design on them and a smooth rim around the edge.

The verdict?  It was a LOT of fun!  The track was a little tricky to set up,  but we easily compensated for our steeper track by adding “guard rails” made from paper plate rims turned the opposite way.  We also added a jar lid at the bottom to catch the marble so that it wouldn’t roll onto the floor where our newly-crawling baby could get it.  This was not an independent activity for little ones.  I used hot glue to attach the sections of track and to attach it to the few cardboard supports that we had.  We didn’t attach the track at all to the block supports.  However, once the track was made, Owen (age 3) enjoyed rolling the marble down over and over while exclaiming, “It works!”

To make the set-up easier, I would try building from the bottom up.  Also, the less steep the track is, the easier it will be to keep the marble under control.

 The next day, Aidan added on to the original track, and Dad helped him to make a more exciting layout!

This layout is not attached to any supports – it’s just resting on block towers! Aidan had a blast, but Owen couldn’t play with it without ruining it…

So, to sum it all up:

The paper towel roll marble run wins for cost – we didn’t have to buy anything for it.  However, it probably required the most time and parent help.

The pool noodle marble run wins for ease of set-up.  The kids can do this one totally by themselves other than the initial slicing of the pool noodles.  But, we had to buy the pool noodles (not a big expense, however).

The paper plate marble run is less work for mom or dad than the paper towel roll option.  It’s also cheap to make, and the curved plate track pieces lend themselves to really exciting layouts.

Aidan says he likes them all equally well.  So there you have it!

What marble runs do your kids like to build?


  1. says

    We must try this. Our youngest found an old very simple plastic marble run which the older children had used. This has been good for a while but making something more complex will be good. I need to check if the paper plates I have are the right design! If not, onto collecting paper towel tubes.

  2. Oma Demmert says

    Instead of pool noodles (which aren’t available year round) try foam insulation from the plumbing supply section of Lowes/HomeDepot. Cut them in half like you did for pool noodle. retty cheam though not colorful. Use painter’s tape or duct tape for color and joining.

  3. Erika says

    Um yeah, I tried this at home with my daughter and it only ended in upset and frustration! What a mess. It was too time consuming, too unsuccessful, and a waste of time. Couldn’t get it to work with their lousy instructions, and as you can see the OP had to create bumpers to stop the marble from falling off the track. We had the same problem, but also it kept falling over too! Do not try at home unless you are EXTREMELY patient.

    • SarahDees says

      I’m sorry that the track did not work for you. I included the note about creating bumpers because that is what caused our track to be successful. We truly built the track in the picture, and it did work! The Family Fun Magazine version did not have a very steep slope at all, and so I’m sure their marble stayed on the track really well. We needed the bumpers because we built steeper slopes.

  4. Jen says

    This is brilliant. My 4yo loves marble runs. He has been since he was two. We bought the lovely wooden one. It was well worth the cost, as we buy only quality toys and I imagine we will save it for his kids. The one we bought involves so much creativity, teaches many skills and so much problem solving.

  5. says

    Cool idea! I’m wondering whether I can combine the paper plate idea with the toilet roll run we just built this arvo… Will have to give it a try!

    • SarahDees says

      Thank you so much for adding the link, and apology accepted! I found where you probably saw it on facebook – someone made a collage using my photos and then shared it on FB with no link, which is actually stealing copyrighted material. Again, thanks for fixing it!

  6. says

    You can make a track similar to the pool noodle track by using pipe insulation that you buy at the hardware store. Split it completely in half with a razor blade and then use masking tape to hold it together. Its really easy for kids to do. We do it as a class project with my second graders every year.

  7. lisa says

    Yes you are missing out if you have not experienced glue dots. It’s so clean and they are fairly strong. I love them.

  8. amy says

    This is awesome! I am an elementary librarian looking for makerspace ideas and I’m going to try this next week! :) You rock!


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