A popsicle stick catapult is a simple and fun way to teach kids about physics. It’s so easy to put together, with dollar store supplies or items you might already have in your cupboards. Within minutes, you can be experimenting with this simple machine.
How to Make a Catapult with Popsicle Sticks
The popsicle stick catapult is a classic science class activity for a reason. It’s so simple to build, and it’s so much fun to test out!
I love any activity that gets kids learning while they enjoy themselves. Toddlers will simply be entertained by sending objects flying, but older kids will be able to appreciate the simple science behind the catapult.
It’s fun to make a game of it! Keep score and see how many objects each person can catapult into a cup.
The STEM aspect of this activity can be highlighted by making predictions. Which object will fly the farthest? Which angle works the best? Keep a record of your results.
Check out our Popsicle Stick Catapult video tutorial:
*Note: Scroll down for the step-by-step photo tutorial.
Looking for more DIY games? Here’s some of our favourites:
Here’s what you’ll need:
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The full printable instructions are at the end of this post, but here’s a list of products on Amazon that are similar to the supplies we used:
What type of projectiles work best in popsicle stick catapults?
Objects with a bit of weight to them, like a ball of tin foil, are the perfect projectile. But you can send any object flying with these catapults (within reason!!), which makes them so much fun.
Try paper balls, marshmallows, eraser tops, bottle caps, or pom poms. Make a prediction about which object you think will fly the farthest!
Which elastics are best for a popsicle stick catapult?
We used the elastics that were around our asparagus bunches, and they worked perfectly. If you don’t have asparagus elastics, thicker elastics, like size #64 rubber bands, will work the best.
We first tried using rainbow loom elastics, but they were too loose. You definitely want heavier duty rubber bands for this experiment.
How do catapults work?
These popsicle stick catapults are a simple machine called a lever. You push the arm (plastic spoon) over the fulcrum (popsicle sticks) to launch the load (tin foil balls, or whatever you choose).
How levers work can be explained using Newton’s Laws of Motion. An object stays at rest until an external force is applied.
Pulling down the arm of the catapult is force, which creates potential energy. Releasing the arm changes the potential energy to kinetic energy, sending the load flying. Then gravity plays a part, bringing the load back down.
How can I experiment with this catapult?
Try pulling the spoon down at different angles. If your spoon is flexible enough, pull it right down to the table before releasing it to get more speed.
You can also change the angle of the catapult by moving the stacked popsicle sticks closer to the elastic on the spoon. The closer they are to the elastic, the farther the projectile will go.
When the stacked popsicle sticks are farther from the elastic on the spoon, the objects tend to be shot straight up in the air. Experiment with different distances, and even different amounts of popsicle sticks in the stack, to see what works best.
Popsicle Stick Catapult
- 8 popsicle sticks
- 3 elastics/rubber bands (thicker, such as size #64)
- 1 plastic spoon
- projectiles/firing power (tin foil balls, paper balls, marshmallows, etc)
Step 1: Put popsicle sticks together
- Take seven of the popsicle sticks and line them up on top of each other.
- Take an elastic and wrap it tightly around one end of the popsicle sticks.
- Place the last (eighth) popsicle stick between the first and second popsicle sticks, sliding it to the middle.
- Take a second elastic and wrap it tightly around the other end of the popsicle stick stack.
Step 2: Attach spoon to catapult
- Line up the handle of the plastic spoon with one end of the single popsicle stick. Attach the handle tightly with an elastic.
- You can now test out the catapult, using all kinds of different projectiles. Pull down on the spoon, place a projectile on it, and let it fly!
- Your popsicle stick catapult is complete!
Popsicle stick catapults are such a fun and SIMPLE science activity! They’re so quick to build, and you can have so much fun experimenting with them. This is a great STEM activity and a fun way to learn about levers, the laws of motion, and potential energy.
Here’s even more DIY game ideas:
Our book Low-Mess Crafts for Kids is loaded with 72 fun and simple craft ideas for kids! The projects are fun, easy and most importantly low-mess, so the clean up is simple!