Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Creating catapults out of very basic materials is a great way to engage the creative and scientific minds of your preschool to adolescent child. With only three supplies needed to complete this activity, pencils, rubber bands, and paper, your child will learn about some basic science topics. Pencil catapults teach children and teens about balance and exchanging energy between their body and the catapult they will build.
For your younger children, this activity will engage fine motor skills through the use of small materials. This activity also helps children follow multi-step directions, with the end goal being an awesome catapult they can play with time and time again! For older children and teens, this activity can help apply complex lessons from the classroom to an engaging, fun play activity. So, grab your supplies and start building your awesome pencil catapult!
12 Pencils (unsharpened)
Gather Your Supplies
1. For this activity, you will need to gather 12 unsharpened pencils and 12 or more rubber bands. You will also need scrap paper that you can use to play with your catapult after you build it by following these steps.
Create the Base
2. To begin building the catapult you need to create a base for the catapult to rest on. To do so, you will need 4 pencils and at least 4 rubber bands.
3. Using the rubber bands to secure pencils together at the ends, you will create a square out of the four pencils. The rubber bands will secure the pencils together at each corner of the square.
4. Next, you will create the sides of your catapult. Pick one side of your base, and pick up two additional pencils and three rubber bands.
5. Then you will secure a pencil at one corner of your base pointing upwards.
6. Repeat this step on the opposite side.
7. Secure those two pencils together at the top with a rubber band, creating a triangle shape.
8. On the opposite side of your base, repeat steps 4 through 7 with an additional two pencils to create another triangle-shaped side that is secured at the top of the pencils with rubber bands.
Connect the Sides
9. Next, you will need one pencil and two rubber bands, which you will use to connect the two triangle sides you just built.
10. Connect the pencil to the top of one side of your catapult with a rubber band.
11. Then, you will hold the pencil horizontally and connect it to the top of the other side of your catapult with a rubber band connecting the two sides together at the top.
Make the Catapult Pencils & Connect
12. For the next step, you will need two pencils and one to two rubber bands.
13. Place the two pencils side by side so they are even. Bind the two pencils together using the rubber bands. These are your “catapult pencils”.
14. Then, in between the two sides you created, pick one side of your catapult base. Use a rubber band to connect the catapult pencils to the base. The catapult pencils should be resting on the base in between the two sides.
Make Safety Bar
15. To create a safety bar, you will follow steps very similar to steps 9 through 11 by using one pencil and two rubber bands. Rather than connecting the sides at the top, you will be connecting the sides in the middle.
16. On the opposite side that you connected your catapult pencils, you will hold a pencil horizontal and secure it halfway down one side of the triangle catapult sides. This will help the catapult pencils to stop once you push them down to play.
Add Final Rubber Band
17. For this final building step, you will need one rubber band.
18. First, use one hand to hold up the catapult pencils so they are touching the safety bar and create a diagonal through the middle of the catapult.
19. Use the other hand to hook the rubber band on one end of the safety bar.
20. Next, you will pull the rubber band under the catapult pencils over to the other end of the safety bar, almost creating a hammock for the catapult pencils to rest on.
21. Using your scrap paper, you can create small paper balls you can shoot using your new pencil catapult!
22. Hold one ball of paper onto the ends of the catapult pencils and push down against the hammock rubber band.
23. Release and watch your paper ball fly!