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?
Ticia Sep 5, 2012
We did one with toilet paper and paper towel roll tubes, and that was a lot of fun. I could see this as being a lot of fun too.
sarahelisabeth Sep 5, 2012
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.
Go Kid Yourself Sep 13, 2012
Awww, now that's just brilliant!!
Susan Case Sep 13, 2012
Great idea! Pinned it on my Recycle board.
Beth Sep 13, 2012
This is AWESOME!! What a great idea =)
Allison Sep 13, 2012
This is amazing! I am going to do it with my boys. We do have a wooden track, but I bet they will like this one better. Genius!
Allison Sep 14, 2012
By the way, I am featuring this tomorrow on The Sunday Showcase. I hope you stop by and link up again!
Sarah Sep 15, 2012
That's great! I'll be there!
Trisha @ Inspiration Laboratories Sep 13, 2012
This is great fun! I know my son would have a blast with it. :)
Rachelle | TinkerLab Sep 22, 2012
This is brilliant! Marble runs are so popular in our house and I know my kids will love this! Just pinned it :)
Hannah @ Making BoysMen Nov 24, 2012
Just discovered this on Pinterest, I know my boys would love it and I love it when we get to work together on a project that engages everyone. Have re pinned and am going to share on Facebook, thanks!
Oma Demmert Dec 17, 2012
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.
Erika Feb 9, 2013
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.
Sarah Feb 9, 2013
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.
Nina Feb 28, 2013
Wow that's such a nice idea. Why buy one when you can build one yourself?
Jen Mar 2, 2013
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.
Alex Mar 14, 2013
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!
Winnie Shine Apr 19, 2013
This is really great idea! I shared this with others in my blog. Sorry for not posting your blog linkage at the beginning because I found this idea on FB where linkage is not provided. I had added back the linkage to my blog. Please accept my apologise!
Sarah Apr 19, 2013
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!
Michele aka Derbylea May 6, 2013
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.
Cindy deRosier Sep 17, 2013
I'm the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your marble track! You can see it here:
If you have other kid-friendly crafts, we'd love it if you would submit them. If you would like to display a featured button on your site, you can grab one from the right side bar of your post above. Thanks for a fun project idea!
Sharon Feb 15, 2014
I've just used cut in half pipe cladding fir an extreme marble run
SharonAnn Maxwell May 11, 2014
I have just spent a long time on your site getting ideas for crafts for older boys. Thank you for sharing! I have found many excellent and easy things to make. Bless you!
chloe May 19, 2014
the paper plate marble runner is good
chloe May 19, 2014
but you can make it bigger
lisa Jul 6, 2014
Yes you are missing out if you have not experienced glue dots. It's so clean and they are fairly strong. I love them.
Sarah Jul 6, 2014
We will have to get some and try them! Thanks for letting me know.
amy Mar 1, 2015
This is awesome! I am an elementary librarian looking for makerspace ideas and I'm going to try this next week! :) You rock!
Phoebe Runion Aug 7, 2016
What websites are for running a blog only? Like writing journals but we can use a different name?
Sonia Sep 20, 2016
You have some of the best ideas! and your pictures are great! I write curriculum for a small hands-on engineering museum in Minnesota, and I keep stumbling upon your pictures (they're also great!) and your posts whenever I search for other great ideas.
Thanks for all the hard work! I know what a huge extra step it is to collect so much "data" before, during and after a design build!
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