Every time I walk into Playscape with my boys, they both immediately take off for the Reaction Contraption, also lovingly known in our house as the “Ball Wall.” I’m fairly certain this corner of Playscape was designed solely for my two boys.
Isaac, my 18 month old, spends the majority of his time trying to see how many balls he can hold at once. When he tires of this, he moves to the vacuum pipe on the far left of the wall, where he watches ball after ball get sucked up into the pipe and then make its way down the wall through a maze of open-ended tunnels.
Lucas, who just turned four, places balls in the center of the wall, cranking and twisting levers to get each ball to the top of the wall so it can also make its way down the maze of tunnels. But for Lucas, he then maneuvers each of the tunnels into his own maze, figuring out angles that make the balls continue rolling and falling into the next tunnel successfully.
So when we were at the museum last month and spent the first 30 minutes at the Ball Wall, I had the Best! Idea! Ever! We could make our own Ball Wall! And because I’m thrifty and so not crafty, we immediately started saving toilet paper and paper towel rolls when they were empty to use as our tunnels. With a little help from an old display board, felt, Velcro and a hot glue gun, we made our very own Ball Wall in 30 minutes for less than $7.
We started playing with a ball from our foosball table then switched to a lighter bouncy ball. (I would suggest going with something even lighter like a ping pong ball.) Once we figured out that a lighter ball worked better, it was so fun watching Lucas try to build a tunnel system that worked. And then his older sisters (8 and 12) lined up behind him to take a turn trying to outdo each other with more complicated designs.
Even though our homemade Ball Wall will never compare to the grandeur of the original Reaction Contraption, it’ll do just fine to keep a couple little boys occupied on these long, cold fall and winter days ahead.
Katie has posted helpful directions to make your own Ball Wall on her personal blog at www.katieunscripted.com.