In this homemade balancing activity, kids try to stack popsicle sticks on a wobbly platform without it tipping over. It’s super easy to make and was an absolute hit with both my kids. Such a fun way to explore physics and perfect for a rainy day!
For this game you’ll be creating a platform for building and stacking that’s attached to a half-sphere so it wobbles. Children will stack popsicle sticks on top while trying to keep the platform balanced so it doesn’t tip and knock them all off (which was actually Theo’s favorite part)!
The activity lends itself to all kinds of learning! At the end of the post you’ll find a list of different learning activities you can use with the balancing platform and popsicle sticks. (This post contains affiliate links.)
Materials for Making Balancing Game
- A 12-inch circular piece of cardboard. (We bought a cake board at our local craft store in the baking aisle, but you could just cut your own out from an old cardboard box.)
- 8-inch smooth foam half ball
- Tape or glue
- A variety of popsicle sticks (We used regular craft sticks, jumbo craft sticks, colored craft sticks, and mini craft sticks.)
How to Make the Balancing Game
1. You’ll start by attaching your half sphere to the bottom of your cardboard circle. This is actually the trickiest part because you want to try to get it balanced perfectly. (What worked for me was first lightly taping the half sphere to the circle and testing it out on the table. If it wasn’t quite balanced, I’d make small adjustments and test it out again. Once I found the perfect spot to attach the half sphere, I traced around it on the cardboard so I’d know where to attach it permanently.)
2. After tracing the half sphere, remove it from the cardboard circle. Add glue around the top edge of the sphere and then glue it onto the cardboard circle being sure to line it up perfectly inside your traced circle. If you want to use it immediately, you might attach it with glue dots or tape. Otherwise, you can use liquid glue and wait for it to dry.
Playing the Balance the Popsicle Sticks Game
This was seriously so much fun! I placed the wobbly platform onto the floor and scattered some popsicle sticks around it. (We started out just using regular craft sticks.) Then I let the kids explore!
Lucy and Theo started by taking turns adding one popsicle stick at a time to the platform. They loved seeing how many they could get onto the platform before it tipped over.
Then they decided to try to see how high they could stack their popsicle sticks.
Later I added some jumbo craft sticks and mini craft sticks. It added a whole new dimension to the game. Now they had to consider not just the placement of the sticks for balance, but also the weight of each stick. They also used different sticks to create designs!
Learning Activities Using the Balancing Game
1. How many popsicle sticks can you stack onto the platform without it tipping over? This homemade game lends itself perfectly to counting practice. Often when Theo was placing his popsicle sticks onto the platform I’d hear him counting- such a great way to practice one-to-one correspondence! Theo is still working on counting to 5 so having him do the activity with Lucy was a great learning experience for him since they’d often count together.
2. How high can you stack the popsicle sticks? Children can estimate how high they think they’ll be able to stack the sticks and then try it out. It’s fun to see them brainstorm different formations to try to see which is most successful!
3. Can you use the popsicle sticks to create any letters of the alphabet? Which are the hardest to make without tipping? Lucy and Theo both enjoyed trying to create different letters. Some are harder to make balance than you think!
4. Use the popsicle sticks to create shapes. A fun way to practice shapes is by make them with popsicle sticks, and it’s even more fun trying to make them on a wobbly platform!
5. Create designs with your popsicle sticks. This balancing game allows for all kinds of creativity. The kids loved making a variety of pictures and designs with different craft sticks.
6. Can you create a design that will balance? Hold the platform with one hand so that it doesn’t move. Use your free hand to create a design with the popsicle sticks on the platform. Predict if the design you created will balance. Then let go and see what happens!
7. What other materials can you use on the balancing platform? Later in the day I noticed Lucy trying other objects on the wobbling platform to see if she could get them to balance!
8. Can you make your own balancing platform? Older children might enjoy actually creating their own homemade balancing game. After decorating their cardboard circle, they can explore balance by attaching the half sphere to the circle themselves.