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!


  1. KStengel says

    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!

  2. Rachel says

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

  3. says

    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 :)

  4. says

    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

  5. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  6. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

    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.

  7. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

    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!

  8. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  9. lrs says

    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?

  10. says

    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.

  11. says

    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?

  12. Sayde says


    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!

  13. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

    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.

  14. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  15. says

    :-) 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!

  16. says

    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.

  17. Steffanie says

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

  18. says

    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!!


  19. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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

  20. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

    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:)

  21. Andrea Oliveira says

    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,

  22. Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

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