Monthly Archives: February 2015

Marble Run

Make a Wall Marble Run from Trash

Sometimes being trapped indoors can inspire some great bouts of creative play. Last Saturday was one of those days. The temperature was in the negatives, a storm that locals were already calling the wrath of Elsa was headed our way, and we weren’t about to go anywhere. I was in need of some indoor activities to occupy both the kids and myself, so I turned to the ever-growing stash of cardboard paper towel and toilet paper tubes that I’ve been saving. There never has been a real plan for this pile of trash, but I clung to the idea that eventually I’d think of something fun to do with them. A marble wall run turned out to be the perfect idea for a day of inside play. Marble Run

With a scant plan in place, we excitedly grabbed our cardboard tubes and painter’s tape and went to town securing tubes to the wall. The next time we try this, we’ll definitely start by sketching out a detailed plan on paper, but sometimes it’s just more fun to jump right in.

If you’re working with a combination of clumsy hands and walls that you’d rather not wreck, I suggest using FrogTape Delicate Surface. Its adhesion is not as great as other tape, but it won’t peel off your wall paint either. If you’re not too concerned with your wall’s well-being, then any painter’s tape should do the job.

In order to keep young minds interested, work backwards and be sure to do LOTS of testing each step of the way. We used a bell that came with a board game so we could hear a satisfying ding at the end of every successful run. If you don’t have a bell, try finding something else that makes a fun sound, like a toy xylophone or drum, or even a tin can. Bell
The rest of the build is pretty straight forward and limited only by your imagination, although you won’t get very far without having to do some problem-solving.
For instance, we had to figure out how exactly to get the marble to drop from one tube into the next, something we initially overlooked. Cutting them in half lengthwise, like a half-pipe, made for a simple drop from chute to chute, but we found the tubes were much harder to tape to the wall that way. Instead, we cut out small notches for the marbles to pass through. We also had to plug the end of a few tubes to stop speeding marbles from launching out the other side.Partial tube cut
You can go crazy with incorporating other light objects into the design. We thought about using some kitchen funnels but our marbles wouldn’t fit through the small holes, so we improvised with a plastic milk jug and styrofoam coffee cup. We ended up liking these recycled items way better.

At one point, while my son and I were playing, we noticed that my daughter had ditched us. I figured that she hit her limit and finally got bored with the project. I was wrong! As it turns out, she left to design her own marble run without any help!Marble Run I love the design she came up with, and how she sometimes has to jiggle one of the tubes when a marble gets stuck. A little more tweaking should solve that problem. This was a super fun project, and I think would appeal to all ages. I sure had fun! If you try it, please send some pictures our way!

DIY Juggling Clubs

DIY Juggling ClubsI recently wrote about my experience learning to juggle. I hope it has inspired someone out there to give it a try. Please let me know if you do! I still have a lot I’d like to learn juggling three and four balls, but I’ve also become curious about juggling clubs, which are bigger and flashier. While I’m at it, I also want to learn how to unicycle, but I’m afraid that my family may get fed up with too many circus shenanigans at once.

While juggling clubs are a natural progression, I’ve been reluctant to run out and buy a nice set of them  because I still have a ton to learn with juggling balls. Fortunately, I found some great online instructions to make your own DIY juggling clubs. They are made almost entirely from common household items such as empty soda bottles, duct tape, and tennis balls. I scrounged up the majority of materials at home, and only needed to buy some rivets and wooden dowels.Juggling Materials

They look like they’ll do a great job of giving me a feel for juggling clubs before committing to purchasing a professional set. Now I don’t have an excuse to avoid learning clubs any longer. Time to practice!

Getting Started with Juggling

JugglingI love exploring new hobbies and interests, and while there’s not nearly enough time in the day to keep up with all of them, one of the few that has stuck over the last few years is juggling. Not only is juggling extremely fun and a classic neat trick to have up your sleeve, it also comes with other powerful benefits. For one, it’s really good exercise, especially when I’m learning new tricks and dropping balls everywhere. It’s also really good for your mind in a variety of ways, and has been linked to increased grey matter in adult brains. I’m looking forward to teaching my kids what I’ve learned so they can gain the same benefits, and so we can eventually learn to do awesome passing tricks!

Learning to juggle three balls takes a quite a bit of patience and focus at the beginning, but that’s also what makes it so fun and rewarding as you start seeing results. It’s honestly not very difficult if you understand the basics and practice smart. This just means breaking it down to the smallest and simplest parts and mastering them before moving on and adding complexity. So, are you ready to give it a try?

Some great beginner tutorials can be found on YouTube. I like this channel from Expert Village, which teaches beginning techniques for three balls, but quickly advances into many other tricks. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on just the first few videos, and do not be in a rush to move on too fast.

Your initial goal should be mastering the very first exercise, then each succeeding step, in order to lay the foundation for which you will build all of your technique and skill. I can’t stress this point enough. I tried and failed at juggling several times when I was younger because I didn’t follow the basic rule of breaking it down to the simplest movement and mastering it before moving on. This idea is actually quite universal and can be applied to learning many other skills.

By doing the above, you’ll have mastered the three-ball cascade before you know it! Now, you can take this experience plus the added confidence boost and apply it towards your next project. On the other hand, if you’re enjoying your new hobby as much as I am, you can continue to delve deeper. Just like when you are learning to play a musical instrument, there is an infinite amount of new skills as well as “tricks” you can learn to take your ability to the next level.

If you’re like me and you just can’t wait to jump in to something, go ahead and watch a tutorial, grab a few makeshift juggling balls (small scarves, oranges, baseballs, etc.), park yourself in front of a couch or a bed (a great beginner tip), and have at it!

In addition to juggling balls, I’ve grown curious about learning how to juggle clubs as well. I’m in the process of making DIY juggling clubs from household items. Be sure to check back soon to hear more about this project!

The Datexx Miracle Cube Timer

We just got a Datexx miracle cube timer to help the kids with things like toy sharing and limiting their screen time. We love it! I may have to pick up another one just for myself to use for exercising, instrument and juggling practice, gaming, or other activities. It would also be great for personal productivity, meditation, or time management strategies such as the pomodoro technique. You just turn it on, flip it so the desired number of minutes is on top, and do your thing until the alarm sounds. Flipping it over to “0” turns the alarm off.  Overall, it’s very easy to use for kids.Datexx 2
These are way better than your average kitchen timers, especially because there is no ticking sound to stress you out or break your concentration. If you do need to keep track of time, there is a small digital display on one side that counts down to zero. The miracle cube timer comes in a variety of different colors which relate to varying combinations of timed increments, going up to an hour. It is perfect for managing kids at home or in the classroom, or for anyone looking for a simple, fun, and easy way to time their activities.