Recycle a potato chips can and cereal box into a fully-functional lighthouse marble run! Your kids will have a blast making the lighthouse and playing with it until the lights go out.
Have you ever been up on a lighthouse? It took us 307 steps to get to the top of the Lighthouse Eckmühl in France, where we got a close look at the enormous lamp and beautifully shaped Fresnel lens. On the way down, I thought, “What would happen if a marble were to roll down the stairs,” which is what inspired this tutorial. You’ll have as much fun making this as we did climbing the steps in Eckmühl!
The lighthouse marble run has two parts: A cool spiral tower run for the lighthouse and a tricky slope for your marbles to navigate at the base. All you need are supplies from your recycling bin, home office, craft room, and play room. Let’s get started!
Note: Because of small choking parts this is a project best suited for children 3 years and older.
What You Need
For The Lighthouse
- 1 empty potato chip can with lid 8 2/3 inches tall x 3 1/5 inches wide
- 1 paper-towel tube
- Rope 1 foot and 8 inches long (I used a spare skipping rope)
- 1 piece of cardboard 4 x 4 inches
- 1 sheet of white copy paper and 1 sheet of red A4-sized paper
For The Lantern And Lamp
- 1 .5 liter plastic bottle with drinking valve
- LED candle
- Parchment paper
For The Slope
- Shoebox lid
- Cereal box
- Old map
- 4 small drinking straws
- Small marbles or wooden beads
- Scissors (kid friendly and standard)
- Black permanent marker
- White tape
- Scotch tape
- Paste stick
How To Make The Lighthouse
Mark the height of the shoebox lip from the bottom of the can. Use the awl to start the opening for the door just above that point. Cut the door and open it.
For the bottom portion of the “staircase,” you’ll cut the piece of cardboard shown above by first tracing the lid of the potato chip can, then the paper-towel tube. The tab, or marble shoot, should fit through your door. Glue the spiral in place near the bottom of the paper-towel tube.
Cut a hole in the can’s lid so that the paper-towel tube fits through. Then cut a slot in the lid for the marbles to fit through.
Pin the rope to the tube as shown, at 45 degrees to get a smooth run.
Carefully insert the paper-towel tube with its attachments into the can and pull the shoot through the door. Put the lid on and test with a marble.
When you’re finished making adjustments to the rope, pull the tube out and use white tape to fix the rope in place. Then remove the pins. (For safety, I count the pins to make sure I removed them all.)
NOTE: To accommodate large marbles, you’ll have to cut the paper roll vertically, all way down, roll it to a smaller size, and tape it back together.
Decorate the lighthouse with red and white stripes using the copy paper and red A4 stock. Start by pasting the red paper to the can, remembering to cut the hole for the door. Then tape and paste the white stripes as shown.
How To Make The Lantern And Lamp
Cut the plastic bottle in half. I punched a hole with the awl first to make it easier to insert the scissors—please be careful!
Color the the bottle’s lid with the black marker.
Cut the parchment paper the length of the LED candle and tape it around your candle.
Cut the portion of the tube that shows above the lid into small strips and fold the strips inside the tube. Color the remaining top portion of the tube black. Insert the light into the tube and cover with the bottle.
Your lighthouse is ready!
How To Make The Tricky Slope
Using cardboard from a cereal box, cut a piece that is about 2 inches longer than the shoebox lid. Bend one end downward and hang the flap over one end of the lid; this is the top of your slope. Fold the other end of the slope upward so that the flap sits on the inside of the other end of the lid.
Mark the hole for the lighthouse at the upper end of the slope and cut it out.
Glue the map to the cardboard, recutting the hole for the lighthouse. Insert the slope and lighthouse into the lid. Tape down the back flap of the slope to the edge of the lid.
Glue the small pieces of drinking straws in the arrangement shown to get a tricky run and let them dry.
Send the marbles down the lighthouse and see where the land!
Have fun, and don’t forget to turn out the light before you go to bed!