stem engineered marble

STEM Play Dough Marble Rollercoaster

Creating a play dough marble rollercoaster is great challenge for kids aged 5-8 in this STEM activity. These activities aren’t Pinterest perfect pictures but the reasoning and the questions that were being discussed during this activity we more valuable. Sometimes the ugliest invents turn out to be the best mistakes to learn from. Taking time to collaborate and discuss problems to solve is more powerful and more rewarding.


STEM stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The main intelligences that develop during STEM activities are analytical, creative and practical.

Applying analytical Triarchic Intelligences uses activites that critique, judge, analyse, compare/contrast, evaluate and assess.

Creative Triarchic Intelligence (Steinberg, 2004, p.275) activities create, invent, discover, imagine, suppose and predict.

Lastly, apply practical activities to build successful thinking in activities is also to use, put in practice, apply, implement, employ and render practical.

These are all terminologies that we as parents and teachers need to get used to discussing casually with children, especially early childhood, so that they are immersed in a STEM culture of thinking.

Here’s what you can use to create a STEM environment for engineering at home:

  1. Play dough,
  2. Plastic cups,
  3. Marbles; and
  4. A tray.

With these items you can create 2 STEM activities with kids.

Please note that marbles are a choking hazard so please be careful. Adult supervision is advised.


This took a bit of time to discuss and plan. We used plastic cups to give the structure strength and height for holding play dough. We had to use small balls of play dough to hold the structure in place.

If I was doing this activity again, I’d probably try clay or even quick dry foam in the craft section. The play dough was a bit too easy to manipulate and sagged.


The alternative to the marble engineered rollercoaster is the marble maze. They could manipulate how they placed the play dough onto the tray and try to challenge themselves or make it easier. Using a large tray helped my pre-schooler more.

Simply create a point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ to with sections of play dough trapping the marbles to make it more challenging.

Wanting more information on the Australian STEM Curriculum?

I can’t stress this enough – work on consciously using analytical, creative and practical vocabulary during daily life experiences and questions. It’s hard to get used to but it will make a difference for your child’s formal education because it will take less time for kids to decode the learning skills they need and retrieve prior knowledge faster.

Other STEM activity ideas for kids under 7

Written by Sarah Courtney

Master of Education, Cognitive Psychology & Learning Practices.