One of our favorite building materials at Wee Warhols is PVC pipe. I bought a variety of 3/4” connectors and A LOT of 3/4” Schedule 40 PVC pipe from Home Depot. You can purchase them in pre-cut 2’ sections for $1.57 apiece or you can save money by buying 3/4″x10’ PVC Schedule 40 plain-end pipe in bulk for $2.86 and cutting them to the desired lengths. I recommend cutting to 2’ sections so you have a manageable length to work with. Home Depot sells a PVC cutter for $6.48, or you could use a hacksaw. So, the convenient way is easier but more expensive. You just have to weigh what your time is worth and what your budget is.
We have built so many things using PVC pipe! To name a few:
- a paint balloon catapult
- golf clubs
- marshmallow shooters
- water systems
- apparatus for pendulum painting (which required wider PVC)
- slingshots (smaller PVC)
- and a play bike wash
- banner stand
What the kids have really been motivated to build are forts and water systems. I just supply them with the materials and let their imaginations and engineering skills take over. It is an activity that really encourages them to work together and problem-solve. There are always a few leaders in the group who like to take charge ( like my son Baron, who always has a lot to say), or others who are happy to join in and help. It is so much fun to see what they come up with on any given day. During summer camps they always seem to want to connect the hose to the PVC pipe and try to make the water come out at one or two points. Recently the kids made a shower that they all clamored to use.
The PVC works as good bones for forts. You can find cheap bedsheets at thrift shops to have on hand for coverage.
A good supply of PVC pipe is a bit of an investment, but it will last and it offers countless opportunities for building and engineering projects. It is a must for a classroom, a school setting, and even a private home, if possible.
For Wee Warhols art classes we definitely have a process approach. There are projects like the marshmallow shooter that take specific instruction and measurement, but I love kid- led activities like the free-for-all fun with this versatile building material. The most exciting part is that they are building BIG. They can go inside the fort they build! This leads to further play experiences that could continue all day. A wonderful book that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to build a PVC pipe marshmallow shooter is Howtoons, The Possibilities Are Endless! I highly recommend it for all kinds of building ideas.
Other PVC Project Ideas:
- Lemonade Stand
- Sand or Water Table Stand
Please add your PVC pipe constructions in comments below. I would love to see what your little engineers build!!
Love those open ended building ideas. It looks like so much fun. Great ideas!
Thanks Christine! I love open ended projects that make the child think and discover.