Marbles are highly entertaining to preschoolers and lend themselves well to an assortment of activities. For an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to have fun with marbles, save your paper towel and wrapping paper tubes and use them to create ramps, mazes and racetracks for your preschooler’s enjoyment. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of marble and tube games--they provide preschoolers with many benefits, including strengthened fine motor and concentration skills. Just be sure to watch little ones at all times to avoid a choking hazard.
1. Marble Target Games
A paper towel tube makes an excellent ramp for marble target games. To create a ramp, tape the center of a paper towel tube to the top rim of an empty margarine container--this will hold the tube on an angle so that marbles can roll down. Fill the margarine container with sand or water to give it some weight. Place the ramp on a carpet or rug and stick a piece of tape on the ground about 12 inches in front of it. To play, have preschoolers take turns rolling marbles down the ramp. The winner of each round is the child whose marble is closest to the piece of tape. For added difficulty, insert another paper towel tube into your ramp to extend the length and move your target further away.
2. Magnetic Marble Tubes
Magnetic marble tubes is a dynamic activity that will keep preschoolers entertained for hours. Cut wrapping paper tubes into smaller tubes of varying lengths and hot glue a small magnet to the ends of each tube. You may even want to decorate the tubes with paint before applying the magnets. Stick the magnetic tubes on a magnetic board and have your children move the tubes around to create a run through which the marbles can roll. Preschoolers will learn through trial and error how they need to position the tubes in order for marbles to run through them without getting stuck. If multiple children are playing, they can collaborate to design different runs and work together as a team to fix runs that don’t work.
3. Marble Racetrack
Play this game with oversized tubes. Cut a long wrapping paper tube or foam pool noodle lengthwise down the middle to create two tracks. Then place two medium-sized containers beside each other, about three feet from the bottom of a staircase. Finally, lean each tube open-side-up on the stairs with the end of each tube sitting over the top of each container. Have two children sit on the stairs and drop a marble down their track at the same time. The child who gets her marble in the container first wins the round.
4. Marble Maze
A marble maze is an efficient way to reuse old wrapping paper tubes. Mark lines on the side of a long wrapping paper tube 2,8,10,19 and 21 inches from the top. Take another wrapping paper tube and mark lines 4, 6, 13,15 and 25 inches from the top. Turn the wrapping paper tube 180 degrees and make one more mark 25 ¾ inches from the top for the exit hole. Cut a hole the size of your wrapping paper tubes at each mark using a craft knife. To make anchors for the two posts you just made, cut a hole the size of your wrapping paper tubes in the bottom of two margarine containers, put the lids on the containers, turn them over, push one post into each hole, and fill the containers with uncooked rice for weight. To make the tunnels, cut a “U” shape into the top of wrapping paper tubes, turn them 180 degrees, and cut another “U” shape at the other end of four of the tubes. Insert each tube into a hole on one of the posts, with the U-shaped holes pointing upwards, to assemble the maze. Slide the other end of each tunnel into its closest hole on the other post. Put the opening of the tube in which you did not cut a U-shaped hole into the exit hole. Preschoolers will enjoy dropping marbles into the maze and seeing whose marble rolls out the farthest.