Summary: an engineering challenge involving plenty of design, thinking and problem-solving, limited only by window space and the number of toilet roll tubes you provide!
Set-up: 5 mins
Play: 30 minutes – 2 hours
Complexity: Medium – but you can support younger children to make this, or simply make a ball chute for them to play with
- Toilet and kitchen roll tubes
- A ping pong ball (or similar)
- A window
What to do
Cut the toilet and kitchen roll tubes in half lengthways, to produce half tubes. Show these to your child and explain their challenge is to use them to create a ball chute for a ping pong ball on the window (ranch sliders work well for this). Fix the cardboard pieces to the window with Sellotape by sticking the top edge only to the window.
Test your ball out on the chute. Where does your child think they need to place the next chute? Encourage your child to test run their chute after every addition, making adjustments where necessary.
Once your child has built a chute from one side of the window to the other, ask them how they will get the ball to turn the corner so they can build a chute going in the other direction. Try out your child’s ideas. For example, one idea is to stick a piece of tube vertically to block the ball from moving any further in the same direction and to lead it to the next set of chutes.
How can you make the ball go faster? At which points on your chute design does the ball slow down? Why does your child think this is? Why is it important to sometimes slow the ball down?
Experiment with gradient – what is the steepest chute they can create without the ball falling off the chute?
Add materials such as paper cups (cut the bottoms off some of these), cardboard, aluminium foil, and paper tubes made out of rolled newspaper, and see what your child does with them.
Challenge your child to invent additions such as trapdoors, or to have multiple entry and exit points (can they get two balls to race?).
What learning does this activity promote?
Thinking skills, problem solving, design, engineering, science, fine motor skills, creativity.
By Dr Vicki Hargraves