Make your own components for a changeable magnetic marble run!
Okay, here we are with yet another marble run, but this one is our favorite one yet! Actually, I’d say this marble run is equally as cool as the other one we posted recently. (I’ll discuss the strengths of each at the end of this post for anyone who cares!)
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This changeable (and sturdy!) marble run is ideal for kids who love to build and tinker. It’s easy to make quick adjustments to the slope of the pieces so that the marble goes exactly where you want it to go. It is suitable for anyone who is old enough to not put marbles in his or her mouth. Aidan (11) is our most engineering-minded son, and he keeps coming back to build bigger and better runs and then saying things like, “Look, Mom! I got the marble to jump off this slope and then land in the tube!” Owen (5) and Gresham (8) have also each taken turns building their own designs. Jonathan is too young to build, but loves to drop the marble down!
Our work surface is a large oil change tray that we purchased at Walmart. We have used this tray for all kinds of magnet play. It’s a great work surface.
Here’s what we used for the components:
- Clear vinyl tubing – The size is 1″ outside diameter (OD), 3/4″ inside diameter (ID). Here’s a link to it at Home Depot.
- PVC pipe – 3/4 inch
- PVC elbows and T-joints – 3/4 inch
- Suction cups – If desired, read notes below.
- E6000 Glue
- Craft Sticks
- Hot glue
- Ceramic magnets – We used these ProMag 0.75 inch magnets, except that we bought a pack of 52 for $8.99 at Michael’s.
It was a little tricky to glue the magnets directly onto the PVC elbow joints, so we used a piece of a craft stick. We glued the craft stick segment to the PVC with E6000 glue, and then that created a flat surface to glue the magnet to.
The suction cup joints were pieces that we built for our changeable water wall, so we got those out too. The suction cups definitely have a stronger attachment to the tray than the magnets, but the magnets are easier to move around, especially for young kids. I like having some of both.
We attached a magnet to this little plastic bottle as a way to catch the marbles.
After we had played with our marble run for a few days, we used craft sticks and hot glue to build some track pieces. They are so much fun because they add the element of being able to easily send the marble back and forth in a small amount of space. They are also easy to adjust.
We used four craft sticks for each section and glued two magnets on the back. I showed Aidan how to make one, and then he built several more himself with the low-temp glue gun.
Favorite Marble Runs:
This changeable marble run would be perfect to build for home or classroom use! The benefits of this marble run are that the pieces are sturdy, and the marble run can easily be built in an unlimited number of configurations.
Build a Marble Maze or Run with Craft Sticks – This marble project is perfect for kids to build on their own using a low temp glue gun. The supplies for this project are super cheap (shoe box and craft sticks), so it would be great for doing with a class or group.
Build a Marble Run with Straws – Another very frugal option!
Here’s our marble run in action:
Natasha Oct 17, 2014
Brilliant idea! I can see my boys loving this. Will give a go one of these weekends!
Sara Oct 17, 2014
Love the use of the milk storage container at the bottom!! Great job of using what you have on hand :-)
Sarah Oct 17, 2014
Yep, LOL! The hospital gave me those when Janie was born, and we never used them! I knew they'd be handy someday!
Emma Nov 3, 2014
I LOVE this, it's amazing!!!
TE Lawrence Nov 23, 2014
This is seriously one of the best craft/activity ideas I've seen in a while! I can see my son coming back to this again & again. Thank you!
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lynette Feb 9, 2015
I am having trouble with the plastic tubing. I initially got the size that it said but it did not fit in the 3/4" elbow joints. Then I tried to find 3/4" outside and the Mable did not fit. Any advice?
Matea Feb 11, 2015
I'm a mom of boys and I'm so going to try something like this with my boys. I can already see their happy faces :)!
Thank you for the idea!
Joanne Oleary May 30, 2015
Try using gumballs instead of marbles
Lakshmi Jun 3, 2015
I am super inspired by your creativity. Thanks for the detailed explanation.
I am going to try this for my 5 year old. I would like to know how the magnets hold up , are they too strong, just strong or weak? I am planning to use the PVC pipes + PVC molding for the tracks. Did the magnets have sufficient strength for the PVC pipes? When you find time, please respond.
Thanks for your time.
Sarah Jun 6, 2015
Hi, I think that our magnets could have been slightly stronger, or maybe use two magnets on each piece of pipe. Overall, it worked well, but we did have a few sliding magnets. We just made sure that each magnet section did not have too much weight resting on it.
Icermaearnefe Jun 24, 2015
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Lisa W Jul 30, 2015
We just saw a huge version of this at our local children's museum, and my soon-to-be 5 year old LOVED it. So I was thrilled to see a doable at-home version we can try! Thinking of presenting it to him for his birthday. This is the 5th time I've googled ideas for my boys and stumbled upon your site. It's about time I bookmark it! Love your ideas; thank you for sharing them! :)
debt Dec 2, 2015
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bladee2030 Jan 23, 2016
Hi, What is a size of marble do you use?
If you could give amazon link or anywhere we can buy online (I am in New York City.) that would be appreciated.
Cathie Oct 25, 2019
Love the idea. Looking for ideas to do for smaller children with bigger balls. Any ideas? Trying to build for a special education school
Lisa Fernandez Jul 29, 2020
Could you try pool noodles? You can even cut some in have length wise. :)
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