How to Design a Marble Run

Written by julia sefton
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How to Design a Marble Run
(marble image by cherie from

Roll, roll, roll, kerplunk! Play with gravity using marbles and recycled cardboard tubes to construct a marble run maze of interconnected passageways. Marbles zooming through the constructed course proves a well-built marble run. Since each part of marble run is interchangeable, there's no limit to the number of run variations. Make the first marble run on the refrigerator's front and then use that experience to move the run anywhere, inside or outside the house, increasing its complexity and construction drama.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Paper towel tubes
  • Wrapping paper tubes
  • Paper cups
  • Clear plastic litre bottles
  • Self-adhesive magnetised tape
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Markers
  • Marbles
  • Coloured cellophane (optional)

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  1. 1

    Cut the cardboard tubes into various lengths, from 3 to 18 inches. Remove the top section completely from some tubes to form half-pipes, leaving the sides of these sections high enough to contain a rolling marble.

  2. 2

    Poke holes in the tubes with the scissor tips and cut out peek-a-boo holes. Cover the holes with cellophane or onion bag netting and secure with masking tape. The marble's action will show in cut-outs as it races through the run. Colour and decorate the outside of the tubes with racing colours or words using markers.

  3. 3

    Attach the run to a refrigerator's metal front by removing the backing of self-adhesive magnetised tape and sticking it to the cut tubing pieces. Hold the tubing against the surface to help figure out where to put the magnetic tape. Pay extra attention to the ends of the tube pieces since these areas are where the most force will fall.

Tips and warnings

  • Move the marble run off the flat, metal surface to run all over the house. Tubes may rest on top of built towers, connect to banisters and climb down stairs. The pieces of the run may be constructed out of plastic bottles and trays, craft sticks and piping.
  • Think about ways to create moving parts of the run. What can a paper cup be attached to so that it will tip over and drop the marble on to the next section of the run? How can a marble make a loop-de-loop? Designing marble runs involves a lot of trial and error.
  • Include friends and neighbours in the fun by holding a marble run competition in the neighbourhood. Invite guest judges and offer prizes for most unique, longest run, and most original use of materials. Sponsor marble races to see who can construct the fastest track using the same number of pieces.
  • Choking hazard: small pieces

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