Here’s a fun homemade toy that you can put together from stuff around the house – a spiral marble track! Drop marbles at the top and watch them spin around the spiral track of paper plates until they get to the bottom. It’s very relaxing to watch.
It’s no secret that we love marble runs around here, and I have often thought that it would be awesome to create a spiral track. But I could never figure out a simple way to make it work! Then I saw a video on Facebook from the page Papo da Professora Denise, and it was just the inspiration I needed. Her marble run is taller and can also fit ping pong balls, so go check that one out too.
We put a bowl at the bottom of the marble run to catch the marbles, which worked well.
Want to see the marble run in action?
My husband built the spiral marble track for me using a mailing tube, paper plates, clear tape, and hot glue.
First, he traced the end of the mailing tube onto a paper plate and cut out the circle with an X-Acto knife. It’s possible to use scissors, but the X-Acto knife really is easier for this sort of thing.
After he had 8 plates with circles in the center, he cut a straight line on each plate from the center to the edge.
Jordan made marks on the tube to show how far apart the plates should be. This is an important step! On his first try, he made the marks 1.5 inches apart, but the marbles kept flying off the sides of the plates because they had too much speed. So he took it apart and tried again with the plates 1.25 inches apart. This worked well!
The amount of slope you need for your track will depend on the type of plates you use (how big they are, how much of an edge they have, etc), so there will be a little trial and error involved in this project.
Starting with the top, hot glue the paper plates to the tube. You want each plate to start at one mark and end at the next.
Attach the joints between the paper plates with clear tape. Duct tape would also work.
We hot glued the finished marble track to a square of cardboard for stability. We haven’t had any trouble with it tipping over, and it hasn’t broken even with heavy use! It’s not a long-term toy, but definitely a big hit until it eventually ends up in the recycling bin. 🙂
Time to play! It’s fun to add a few marbles at a time, and of course it’s also fun to pour out the WHOLE BUCKET at one time!
Need more marble run ideas?
- Turn a large cardboard box into an EPIC MARBLE RUN!
- Make Marble Trampolines – a marble run with a fun twist.
- Make a marble run with a shoebox and craft sticks.
Anne Thomson Oct 19, 2017
Fabulous idea, thanks for sharing.
Janelle Oct 25, 2017
Love this idea! I built one last night! A couple notes to add to your great directions - I found it was easier to start building at the bottom than the top. Every time I built a layer, I would test the run to make sure it was still working well, since it's hard to go back and edit later. But it was still tricky, because as the ramp got longer and the marble built up more speed, it would launch off the lower ramps. It works well if I mix bouncy balls that slow the run down a bit with the marbles. It was tricky to get the angle of the ramps just perfect, and I later wondered if this method would have worked... Would it work to mark the 1.25 inch increments up the side of the tube, then draw a spiral at just the right angles connecting those dots all the way up, then just glue the plates along that line? Would love it if someone tried that and reported back! (You can see pictures of my run at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/10/25/spiral-ball-track/)
Vince Quest Nov 6, 2017
Hey Sarah, this is great! Love the simplicity of the idea and how easy it is to make. I used to make marble runs that ran down the walls in my closet as a kid. Endless hours of fun!
Eliz Nov 22, 2017
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Jackson Borelli Nov 5, 2020
This is AWESOME-SAUCE!!!!!!!!!!!
Makai Luttrell Nov 12, 2020
I did no have papaer plates so I used cardboard.
Aunt Sis Feb 15, 2021
I didn’t know kids were still playing with marbles!! When I was little we’d play in our hallway and they be school kids. We had a blast!! Thanks for the memory!!
Teresa Leyvas Oct 17, 2021
Thank you so very much! This is exactly what I was looking for!
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