Zip Lines – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Zip Lines

Children work together to transform everyday materials into creations that can carry weight safely across a zip line.

Materials Required

  • Scissors
  • String
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Pre-made hooks and pulleys
  • Large paper clips
  • Tape
  • Pre-cut cardboard pieces
  • Recycled materials (e.g. produce baskets, plastic containers)
  • Pennies
  • Binder clips


  1. Set up a zip line using string and tape to attach each end high off the ground (e.g. to a chair or table).
  2. Sort materials into separate bins.
  3. Explain to children what zip lines are. For example, “Zip lines can be found in playgrounds, but are also used to access remote areas high in the air, like the rainforest canopy. Zip lines use gravity to propel an object from one end of a sturdy cable to the other. Today you are going to use your creative problem solving skills to build something that will safely carry weights across a zip line and deliver and drop a package.“
  4. Give children time to plan and design their objects using the materials provided and sorted neatly into bins.
  5. Attach each child’s or group’s object to the zip line using the premade hooks and pulleys.
  6. Invite children to add weight (pennies) to their objects, and then test how they work on the zip line, and if they make it all the way across.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Show children images of real life zip lines for inspiration.
  • Give older children the added challenge of trying to safely deliver and drop something fragile (e.g. an egg, medical supplies).
  • When setting up the zip line for young children, place one end (the starting point) higher than the other. For older children, allow them to experiment to find an effective angle.

Links to Creativity

One of the more important life skills to foster in children occurs when you support them in taking risks and exploring creative ways to solve problems (Kogan & Wallach, 1964). Sometimes, these solutions are practical but involve using only the materials available. In the case of this activity, children gather household items to create a specific technology (zip lines) which can be used to solve different problems, such as how to deliver specific items. As the challenges become more difficult, and materials more scarce, children are left with the most important resources for the job: flow and their own creative thinking (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Shernoff et al., 2014; Shaughnessy, 1998).

Supporting research includes:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.

Kogan, N., & Wallach, M. A. (1964). Risk taking: A study in cognition and personality. Oxford, England: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Shaughnessy, M. F. (1998). An interview with E. Paul Torrance: About creativity. Educational Psychology Review, 10(4), 441-452.

Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2014). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. In Applications of Flow in Human Development and Education (pp. 475-494). Springer Netherlands.


This activity was contributed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2017 Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

Zip Lines

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