Magnetic marble tubes for the preschool classroom

Magnetic marble tubes for the preschool classroom

I finally got around to making a set of magnetic marble tubes for my class and boy did my kids LOVE these simple-to-make paper tubes…

I saved quite a few paper Christmas wrapping paper rolls just for this activity and the other night, I was motivated to turn them into a marble run. To make these…

  • Cut each tube into a variety of lengths
  • Paint each tube with tempera paint (optional)
  • Cover the tubes with clear packing tape (optional)
  • Hot glue two magnets to one side of each tube

I brought the magnet marble tubes to preschool and set them by the magnetic board and a bag of small rubber marbles.  It didn’t take long before curiosity set in and a few of the children began to try and figure out what the tubes were for…

There is nothing I enjoy more than watching these kids work together. It is such a pleasure to observe the children as they collaborate and communicate to achieve a common goal…

The marble runs took on all different shapes and the children quickly learned how to adjust the tubes when a marble would get stuck somewhere in the middle…

The children discovered what would work and what wouldn’t work through trial and error along the way…

The children made me promise that I would leave the marble tubes out for them to play with again next week…

Simple to make and easy to replace if a piece gets lost or torn…

Linking up with No Time for Flashcards :Link & Learn!


  • KStengel Posted January 22, 2012 11:29 am

    Thank you so much for sharing all of your great ideas! I look forward to opening the emails to see what new treasure is inside. Thanks again for taking the time to inspire us all!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 11:43 am

      You are welcome:)

  • Rachel Posted January 22, 2012 12:16 pm

    OMG I love this!!!! I have used tubes in the block center for cars to race through, similar concept! But love this!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:18 pm

      We tried to fit our cars through too Rachel – but the tubes I used were too skinny for our cars:) I think I will have to make another set using fatter tubes!

  • Asiya Posted January 22, 2012 12:27 pm

    Love this idea! My son would love it…great way to use up all the toilet paper and paper towel rolls I’ve been keeping around 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:18 pm

      I love that you have been saving them! Too sweet!

  • [email protected] Posted January 22, 2012 1:20 pm

    This is such a brilliantly simple idea, I love it! And I’ve still kept all my Xmas wrapping tubes:-)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:19 pm

      I saved mine too and knew I wanted to use them for this but I just now got around to making them.

  • Tom Posted January 22, 2012 1:38 pm

    The simplicity of this toy is great. Simple, but it still allows the children to build and experiment in so many ways. The picture of the boy looking to see where his marble will tells it all. Where did you get the big metal pan? Tom

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:16 pm

      Hi Tom – this is a “grease catcher” like you buy at an auto shop to go under cars when you are working on them. I just painted it so it would be white rather than silver.

  • artsy_momma Posted January 22, 2012 1:46 pm

    So neat & colorful! Where do you buy your magnets from?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:15 pm

      I got these magnets in packages of 50 from Walmart – in their craft section!

      • artsy_momma Posted January 22, 2012 2:24 pm

        Thanks! I had no idea Walmart even sold those 🙂 There are so many fun magnet crafts I have been seeing lately!

  • Leeanne A Posted January 22, 2012 1:53 pm

    Oh my goodness – I love this – time to make more stuff for the classroom! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 22, 2012 2:19 pm

      Don’t want you getting bored Leeanne:)

  • lrs Posted January 22, 2012 4:06 pm

    What a great project! cant wait to do it with my preschoolers. Where did you buy the rubber marbles from and will the glass ones work?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 1:07 am

      I think most people use the glass marbles. I used the rubber balls because they were quieter:) I found them at the Dollar Store or Walmart.

  • Karen Posted January 22, 2012 5:54 pm

    Deborah, this is fabulous!!!!!!! And thank you for your advice about the Kindle. I am stil pondering all that using one would entail, but I so appreciate your advice and thoughts.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 1:50 am

      You are welcome Karen:)

  • Kristah Posted January 22, 2012 6:03 pm

    I really want to do this in my classroom, but I have one child that still puts everything in his mouth. I wonder what else I could use that is bigger than marbles. I have plastic golf balls, but not sure where to find tubes big enough to fit . Does anyone have any ideas?

    • Sayde Posted January 22, 2012 6:44 pm


      You might try slicing the colorful pool “noodles” into chunks, instead of paper tubes. The middle hole in most pool “noodles” is larger, so a small golf ball should roll through! You could then hot glue the magnets on, and use them in a similar fashion to Debbie’s brilliant idea!

    • Alec Duncan, from Child’s Play Music Posted January 22, 2012 11:53 pm

      Kristah, you might find that the cardboard tubes from dress material rolls is big enough for golf balls. Or mailing tubes.

    • Julie Posted July 18, 2012 10:31 pm

      how about pvc tubing used for plumbing?

  • MiaB Posted January 22, 2012 7:42 pm

    This is so CLEVER!!! What a simple and fun activity.


  • Alec Duncan, from Child’s Play Music Posted January 22, 2012 11:51 pm

    I love this post, Deborah! It occurs to me that if you hot glued magnets to sections of PVC pipe this would make a great modular water wall. You could also use sections of flexible corrugated drainage pipe which would give you curves.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 1:51 am

      My only concern is the weight of the pvc pipe – but I am game to give just about anything a try:)

      • Alec Duncan, from Child’s Play Music Posted January 24, 2012 5:51 am

        Well, for PVC you could always use more magnets. Or stronger ones. PVC reticulation pipe comes in different wall thicknesses, so you would choose the lightest class of pipe – which also happens to be the cheapest 🙂

        The corrugated drainage pipe is very lightweight – I use 40mm (~1.5inch) for some of my instruments and it weighs next to nothing. You can get it from hardware stores and it’s very inexpensive – here in Australia a 20m roll costs around $20. It has many uses in the outdoor area (musical instruments, ball-runs, construction play, loose parts etc ) so it won’t be wasted.

  • Amber Posted January 23, 2012 7:56 am

    🙂 After our marble days last week…I was just wondering how I could make something like the magnetic marble runs I see around now a days. Hmmm…unfortunately I just discarded a bunch of containers and tubes I had kept around since I’m wrapping up the preschool/child care. I can see my husband’s face now when I start saving them again!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 11:50 pm

      Haha – I would like to see his face too:)

  • Janice @ learning4kids Posted January 23, 2012 8:59 am

    Oh, this is a fab idea!!! I love it!!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 11:50 pm

      Thanks Janice!

  • Little Wonders’ Days Posted January 23, 2012 8:08 pm

    Very, very cool. I would never have gotten my kids out of there if they went to your school! I also love that you just set them out and let the children explore how to use them.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted January 23, 2012 11:49 pm

      I have some bright kids in my class – they always figure things out:)

  • Jenni & Jody Posted January 24, 2012 10:32 am

    GREAT idea! I am excited to post this link on our message board and share it with all of our pre-K moms. Thanks so much

  • Steffanie Posted January 26, 2012 8:57 pm

    Super Super great idea. I’m always trying to keep my kids interested and I think they will love this idea.

  • Maestra Magali Posted January 28, 2012 10:11 pm

    My students love your idea
    Thanks from Mexico =)

  • Love and Lollipops Posted February 4, 2012 8:51 am

    What a fabulous idea. I’ve previously made a marble run with my boys and the trouble was that it kept coming away from the wall. (I used tubes and tape to stick it to the wall)

    Another terrific idea – thanks for sharing!!


    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 4, 2012 11:01 am

      Yes, children tend to play a little rough so by using magnets, they might hold on a bit better:)

  • Love and Lollipops Posted February 19, 2012 2:56 pm

    Hi Deborah,

    I have just posted our version – we made a game of it. I have linked to your post in mine.

    Georgia 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted February 19, 2012 7:28 pm

      Awesome! Will stop by and link back!

  • martha Posted March 5, 2012 8:09 am

    Love it, where do you get the big magnetic board?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted March 5, 2012 8:19 am

      This is a large metal “grease pan” available at auto supply stores or even some Walmarts carry them. I painted my pan so it would look prettier:)

  • Andrea Oliveira Posted March 26, 2012 2:45 pm

    Hi Deborah,

    I wanna thank you for all your great ideas. I´m a preschool teacher here in Brazil, my little ones are 3 years old and they are all for exploring. Your website is the one I use to plan my classes.

    Thanks again,

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. Posted March 26, 2012 3:09 pm

      Hi Andrea!
      I am so thrilled to have you join me here – what a wonderfully small world we have with today’s technology!

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