Can't play baseball or softball or soccer? Looking for something new to do? Welcome to the world of competitive marble racing!
In 2013, brothers Jelle and Dion Bakker of the Netherlands launched a YouTube channel called Jelle’s Marble Runs. The two make fancy racecourses for marbles with electronic starts and conveyer belts that take the marbles back to the top for another lap. Their videos don’t just show marbles going down a racetrack, though. The marbles compete as teams, with each team sporting its own color and name. Grandstands are filled with “fans” holding signs, and announcers provide commentary for the events.
The Bakker brothers also have come up with other marble sports. One contest has four “team members” trying not to fall off a flat track. The team with the most marbles completing the course wins. The brothers even hold a marble Olympics with long jumps and more. These marble events have been gaining popularity, especially since the Coronavirus has canceled many sporting events.
But you don't need anything that elaborate to begin your own marble competition. You just need a few basic materials.
Small cardboard box
Tempera paint or spray paint (optional)
Scraps of colored paper (optional)
Step 1: (For grown-ups) Using a serrated knife, cut the pool noodle in half lengthwise. You will have two race tracks. The hole in the middle of the noodle is now the course for the marbles to race down.
Step 2: (A grown-up should also supervise this step.) Cut the flaps off a small cardboard box. Using the end of a pool noodle half as a guide, draw two half-circles at the top of the box to make your marble run base. Cut out the half-circles.
Step 3: (Optional) Paint the box.
Step 4: (Optional) Fold small scraps of paper in half and cut small flags. Glue to the tops of the toothpicks. Insert the toothpicks into your pool noodles. Write "Finish" on a strip of paper and glue toothpicks to each end. Insert toothpicks into the box above the circle cutouts.
Step 5: (Optional) Make your grandstands. You can build rows of LEGOs or use cardboard boxes or whatever else you have handy. Load the grandstands with your "fans."
Step 6: Find a place to set up your racetrack. Remember, in order for the marbles to race, the beginning has to be higher than the end. You can use steps, or a chair, or a pile of books, or whatever works for you. Put the other end of the pool noodles into the circular cutouts in the cardboard box. Make sure the ends of the pool noodles line up at the top and the bottom.
Step 7: Test your marble run to make sure the marbles fall into the cardboard box at the end. You don't want to spend your time running after stray marbles! Raise or lower the top of the noodles to adjust your racetrack.
Step 8: Race! Start a marble at the top of each track. 3-2-1-GO! Try different marbles to see which is the fastest.
Your marble racetrack can be as basic or fancy as you want. You can have a plain pool noodle and a brown cardboard box. You can add flags and other decor. You can make grandiose grandstands. You can tape more pool noodles together to create a longer track. Go around corners. Make a loop-the-loop. Make a ski jump and see whose marble travels the farthest. Come up with your own marble games. You are limited only by your imagination!