Mega Marble Run
We hacked a Melissa & Doug easel to create a double-sided mega marble run that stood the test of 100s of kids at the USA Science + Engineering Festival.
Want to make a mega marble run for your kids? Let’s get to it!
Here’s what they’ll learn:
This mega marble run is a a great toy that will keep the kids entertained for hours. But it’s more than that. Through play, kids learn lessons about gravity, design, and how angles affect acceleration. Plus, it’s a massive exercise in problem solving and persistence.
Here’s what you’ll need:
large oil drip pan – I found ours in the Walmart automotive department for about $12 each
art easel – ours was just sitting in the corner of our basement, not being used. If you don’t have one, check out the Mala easel at Ikea. It’s $15.
screws – measure the depth of the legs on your easel and buy ones that won’t poke through. So, for most easels I’d recommend going less than an inch.
round craft magnets
plumbing elbows – .75 inch
hot glue gun
Here’s what you’ll do:
1. Remove chalk/white boards and trays from easel.
2. Screw the metal oil pans to the legs of the easel. I removed the bolts that held our easel’s legs together and placed the screws so they’d hold the legs together. If you have a Melissa & Doug easel, take a look, and you’ll see what I mean. If you have an easel that has one continuous piece of wood for legs, then it probably doesn’t matter where you place the screws.
3. Cut cardboard tubes to different lengths. Leave some tubes whole. But for most of them, remove sections to create a partial cylinder. We found the 3/4 cylinder shape worked best so make sure you have a lot of those. To make, just cut away 1/4 from the top part of the cylinder. You’ll want to test out magnet placement and make adjustments as needed.
4. Hot glue magnets to the the back of cardboard tubes and plumbing elbows. I found two magnets worked best for all the pieces including the elbows. For elbow pieces, glue a magnet near each opening. It prevents it from spinning and moving around.
5. Make a trap for the marbles using the bottom portion of an oatmeal can, cereal box or whatever you have on hand.
6. You and the kids can go crazy decorating the tubes. Or, go the ‘less is more’ route and leave them plain. Totally up to you.
How cool would this be at a kids party? If you do plan to use it at a party or with multiple kids, I’d suggest buying a boot or litterbox tray to place at the bottom of the marble run. It’ll cut down on marbles bouncing all over the place. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way.
Incidentally, do you know how exhausting it is to run after marbles as they bounce across the floor of a giant convention center? Let’s just say, very.
“But Jen,” you say, “there’s so much more you can do with this hack, in addition to a marble run.” Great point! This board is great for all sorts of things:
Displaying art – think of it as a big ol’ refrigerator door
the list goes on and on…