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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DIY Tutorial: Marble Run

So with the lazy days of summer upon us, I've been trying to come up with and/or find some crafty ideas to keep my 4 year old out of the dreadful World of Boredom...and AWAY from the t.v. as much as possible!

This is actually an idea I came across a while back, and have since been saving up our empty paper towel rolls in order to create it!  I must confess that this is NOT an original idea of mine.  I was first introduced to the concept at the Phoenix Children's Museum here in Phoenix {by the way, if you're a Phoenix local, and haven't been yet, you simply MUST go to the Phoenix Children's Museum -- sooooooo ridiculously creative and fun for the kids!}.  At PCM they used PVC pipe for this, which I was initially going to emulate, until I came across the same idea but done with paper towel rolls instead - much easier and basically FREE!  I wish I had the original link I found online, but I never bothered to bookmark it because once I saw it, I could tell just by looking at it how it was made {that's what happens when you own every type of craft and supply known to mankind - ha!}.

So it's super easy and not a huge time commitment to make - BONUS!  And, once made, you can always change up the tracks, meaning your kid shouldn't get bored with it very quickly - another huge bonus, and even keep adding more tracks as you keep emptying more paper towel and toilet paper rolls!  So here's what you'll need to get started:

empty paper towel and/or toilet paper rolls/tubes
hot glue gun
duck tape
fridge OR magnetic board
stickers, markers, paint or anything you might want to decorate them with (optional)

Cut the tubes {if desired} into the sizes you want.  We kept some the original length, and cut others down to different sizes ~ it's best to have a variety, I think ~ works better for more angles, tighter corners and smaller spaces.

Next, decorate the tubes however you want!  My son just wanted to draw on them a little, so I let him go at it with some markers.  Then I reinforced sections of the tubes with duck tape {to make them more durable}.  We used plain red tape because that's what he wanted {I also bought some utterly adorable black and white houndstooth duck tape, too, but he wasn't about to have it - darn!  Just have to save it for another project, I guess!}. *NOTE: I covered some of the tubes in the duck tape FIRST and then let him draw on the open/brown spaces ~ this changed order was only to "preserve" his designs.

Now you're going to cut some openings on the ends of your tubes.  I cut two slants toward each other and then cut straight across to connect them.  Make these slanted cuts about 1 -2" into the tube {on both ends}.  *NOTE: You cut the openings ONLY on the "top" side {pick a side and go with it - either will work}.  So you're cutting two openings total PER TUBE - one one either side of the tube, and both of them on the "top" side of the tube.  Hopefully that makes sense....if not, just check out the images, and you'll see what I mean. 

Lastly, take your hot glue and glue on the magnets onto one side of the tube.  Glue them on so that your openings you cut are facing up, as imaged in the picture above.  Also, I would highly recommend buying the large round magnets versus the cuttable kind, because the round ones are stronger, which comes in handy for this particular project. Use at least 2 magnets per tube and preferably near the ends {this will keep your tubes from sliding on the fridge/magnetic board -- it's important that they don't slide because you'll discover part of the fun is getting the tubes lined up perfectly so that your marble can make its way through the entire run without sliding off somewhere!  And if your tube keeps sliding around, it's going to be frustrating for your kids!}
magnet glued onto the side of the tube

Set up the marble runs/rails in a pattern such that all the openings are lined up with one another.  You can set these up on your fridge, a magnetic board or any other magnetic surface!  {We chose the fridge for now, but we'll be moving this activity to my son's magnetic board in his room soon - that way he can have it up all the time, and I won't get tired of looking at it!}  Get your marbles out, and let it go for a ride!  As noted earlier, you'll probably need to adjust the angles and spacing on them to figure out just where they need to be to make it down the entire run - but this is a huge part of the fun!  And once your kiddos have mastered one run, it's time to take them down and start a new one!  We also discovered that you can have different runs feeding into other ones - intersections!  We also decided to put a big cooking pot at the bottom of our run to keep the marble from going everywhere.  {We had started with a little cup there at first, but quickly discovered it's much easier to use a bigger pot, of course!}

Have fun with this one - we're loving it at our house! 

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