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


  1. says

    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. says

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

  2. Maureen says

    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. says

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

  3. says

    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

  4. says

    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. says

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

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. says

      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.

  5. says

    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. :)

  6. says

    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. says

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