Colorful pipe cleaner bead mazes

After seeing some wonderful pipe cleaner designs being shared on other blogs, I finally knew exactly what to do with all those scraps of Styrofoam  squares and blocks I have been saving up in my garage…

This is a very open ended process and there are many ways it can be explored.  We made pipe cleaner designs on Styrofoam without beads at first which is very fun and beautiful by itself. My threes enjoyed just working with the pipe cleaners by themselves although some did come back later and tried adding beads too…

As I was watching the kids explore the pipe cleaners and Styrofoam,  that is when I realized that these reminded me of those beaded mazes you can buy in a store so, I pulled out my basket of colorful beads. We usually use the beads to thread onto shoestrings but I thought we would try making beaded mazes…

Each child chose what they preferred to do with the materials.  Some children used the beads, some children only used the pipe cleaners, and the designs went in all different creative directions. Keep in mind, this activity was designed at first for the children just to explore the materials.  The children made many discoveries along the way…

I set out Styrofoam in all different shapes and sizes. I had an odd assortment I had saved.  If the children wanted to start over, they simply pulled out all the pipe cleaners and started over with a blank canvas…

The children discovered that if they curled or tangled up the pipecleaners too much, that their beads would get stuck and not go from one end to the other.  The children also discovered that they could hook two pipe cleaners together to make the maze longer but it didn’t always work out the way they hoped.  The children used their problem solving skills and their own interest in creative design and expression through out the process of exploring the pipe cleaners and beads…

The children also discovered that if they added too many beads that it would weigh down the pipe cleaner rather than let the pipe cleaner stand up tall. Funny thing is, this did not concern the children.  I thought it would but it shows what I know – they just kept adding more beads anyway…

And the children also discovered that if they pushed one end of the pipe cleaner into the Styrofoam first, it would be much easier to then add the beads.  To help the threes, I demonstrated this part of the process so they could manage the beads easier…

My older children really liked the “engineering” aspect of this process so on Prek only day, I set out the materials again only this time instead of my beads, I set out some left over pasta beads so the Prek kids could make one to take home…

Some of the prek children chose to only use the pipe cleaners for their take home maze…

The pasta beads were a little too heavy. I was trying to find some of bright and colorful straws for the children to use but I couldn’t find them anywhere that morning.  Oh well – we will save the straws for another day when we need something simple to keep us busy…

One of the biggest discoveries by the children was if you added a pipe cleaner to each side of your Sheet of styrofoam, then you would have a handle to hold it!…

This was such a terrific process, I can see lots of potential for future ideas so I guess I will stock back up on sheets and squares of Styrofoam for our next adventure…

On our last day, the Prek kids took their mazes home….


Available on Amazon

Links to Grow On

Pipe Cleaner Sculptures from House of Baby Piranha

Beaded Rainbow Activity from To the Lesson!

Discovery Box Pipe Cleaners from The Imagination Tree

Learning Letters with Pipe Cleaners from Makes and Takes

Pipe Cleaner Toy from Fun and Engaging Activities for Toddlers

Marble Mazes from Strong Start

By |2012-04-01T07:00:21+00:00April 1st, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Janice @ learning4kids April 1, 2012 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Oh, this is very cool! Definitely going to do this with my girls – hours of fun! Now to start collecting the foam! :o)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm - Reply

      Different sizes and shapes of Styrofoam work well with this!

  2. Ellie April 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    WOW this is amazing…..This has so many aspects to it, math, science, and great problem solving skills. I am so using this. I love this! Thank you so much my kids will love this too.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      It really does have many levels of learning involved! Thanks for stopping by Ellie!

  3. Vicky April 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Just pinned this. I need to start saving Styrofoam too. You are such a dedicated teacher.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 2, 2012 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Thank you for the Pin Vicky!

  4. Maureen April 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    I love your site. Great ideas which I share with all the teachers at my preschool where I work. Thanks

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 2, 2012 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing with others Maureen – I really appreciate that!

  5. School Sparks Renee April 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    What a fantastic idea. Great fine motor practice while the kids really stretch their imaginations. Thanks for the pictures, Deborah. I’ll have to stock up on styrofoam. Did you buy it in bulk or just collect it along the way? Renee

  6. Janice @ learning4kids April 3, 2012 at 12:19 am - Reply

    My first offical Teach Preschool Pin! Thanks Deborah! :o)

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 3, 2012 at 8:58 am - Reply

      Haha! Yay!!

  7. andiejaye April 3, 2012 at 2:17 am - Reply

    what fun! i know that Bear would love this! now… what can i order to get big pieces of styrofoam? hmmm… *pinning it*

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 3, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Thanks for the pin Andie!

  8. Aunt Annie's Childcare April 3, 2012 at 5:58 am - Reply

    It looks great- but before all your Aussie readers get excited, last I heard Styrofoam was banned in our EC centres due to the danger of it fragmenting and being inhaled. I was in a centre one day when the accreditation people turned up and the preschoolers were hammering things into styrofoam- and the inspectors had a fit and made copious negative notes.

    Just sayin’!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 3, 2012 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Thanks for the heads -up! I am sure there will be those that have concerns with Styrofoam.

  9. crystal@growingajeweledrose April 5, 2012 at 12:30 am - Reply

    I just love this! I love all the discoveries made by the little one along the way!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. April 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      It was very interesting to see the dilemmas they encountered along the way. The children participated in this activity in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I was all excited about making a bead maze – the children were excite to explore the connection and manipulation of the materials.

  10. Asiya April 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I love this idea! I have so many pipe cleaners and never know what to do with it…now I just wish I had some styrofoam….my kids destroyed what I had by pounding some golf tees in them. 🙂

  11. Karen May 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Oftentimes older elem students will help make fun things for preschool students–this is a great idea for one of those projects. K.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 31, 2012 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      I agree – older students would really be able to get very creative with this process!

  12. Montessori Motherload July 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I love this! It’s so simple and fun! Thank you for sharing.

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