This is a super simple science and craft activity to do with the kids. We always have lot of lolly sticks (popsicle sticks) left to use, so we decided to have a go at making a lolly stick catapult. These were so simple to make, but we have had hours of fun seeing who can get mini marshmallows into a target!
How to make a lolly/popsicle stick catapult
6 Lolly sticks/popsicle sticks
1 Wooden or plastic spoon
6 Loom bands or elastic bands
Stack 5 lolly sticks together and wrap a loom band round each end
Stack 1 lolly stick and the wooden spoon together and wrap a loom band around the very end. We prefer a wooden spoon to a plastic one as it gives without cracking making for a better “fling”.
Separate the spoon and the lolly stick. Place the stack of 5 craft sticks between the lolly stick and spoon.
Wrap a rubber band around all of the craft sticks to hold the catapult together.
Push down on the spoon and release to launch an object from catapult.
I also made a video if you would rather see how to in person, so to speak!
The science behind a catapult
Even though your kids will see catapults as a load of fun, there is a lot of science involved. Catapults were first invented to hurl projectiles farther than any human could. They proved themselves very effective as siege weapons and invaluable on the battlefield. Catapults have been used since ancient times all the way to World War I. “Catapult” comes from two Greek words, “Kata” which means downward and “pultos” which is a small shield. Together, Katapultos means “shield piercer.”
Catapult physics is basically the use of stored energy to hurl a projectile (the payload), without the use of an explosive. The three primary energy storage mechanisms are tension, torsion, and gravity.
Catapult projectiles for kids
The good news is that modern life has provided many alternatives to the medieval rock. Start with one of the suggestions below, but get the kids involved in finding soft and safe alternatives. Safety glasses is always a great idea when playing with flying objects!
- Sponge pieces – wet or dry
- Cotton wool balls
- Crumpled paper balls
- Ping pong balls
- Stuffed animals!
- Small soft play balls