A-maze-ing Design – Bay Area Discovery Museum

A-maze-ing Design

Design and create a tabletop game using recycled materials, straws, and ping pong balls! Children create the maze, and then race ping pong balls by blowing air through straws. This activity inspires creative problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Materials Required

  • Drinking straws (1 for each participant)
  • 2 ping pong balls
  • Large base for maze to be built on like a large flat piece of cardboard or foam core
  • Recycled materials to repurpose, such as coffee cup sleeves, cardboard, cereal boxes and paper tubes
  • Masking tape, artist’s tape or painter’s tape
  • Scissors or an X-Acto knife
  • Aluminum foil and pipe cleaners (optional)


  1. Start by planning the maze. There is no wrong or right way to plan the maze. Here are questions to consider: Do you sketch out the maze in advance? Do you dive right in and start adding materials to the base?
  2. Design and build the maze. Choose a start and finish point and build it into the base of the maze. Use as many different materials to create twists, turns, and obstacles for the ping pong ball. Be sure to make pathways wide enough for the ping pong ball to travel through the maze. Also, take advantage of height, there is no height limit for paths in the maze.
  3. Test the maze. Push the ping pong ball by blowing air through a straw to make the ball move.
  4. Start racing! Blow the ping pong ball from start to finish. The winner is the person who blows the ping pong ball to the finish line first.

Additional Tips

Try these activity variations:

  • Race against the clock to move the ball from start to finish.
  • Have one player begin at the start point and the other at the finish line. Choose a mutually agreed upon mid-point and race to reach that point.

Links to Creativity

This activity provides children with the opportunity to design their own game. By taking used materials and looking at them with new eyes to create something original, children are using what researchers call beginner’s mind. Putting the game together takes a lot of creative problem solving to make it work—and that’s before children even get to play with it! Playing with these recycled materials shows children that they can do a lot more than just what they were made for. Racing through the maze also requires decision-making skills. If a child can’t make it through the maze the first time, they need to learn what the problem is and try to solve it.

Supporting research includes:

Richards, R. (2007). Everyday creativity: Our hidden potential. In R. Richards (Ed.), Everyday creativity and new views of human nature (pp. 25-54). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Runco, M. A. (Ed.). (1994). Problem finding, problem solving, and creativity. Norwood, NJ: Greenwood Publishing Group.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see CenterforChildhoodCreativity.org.

©2014 Bay Area Discovery Museum.

A-maze-ing Design

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