Make Your Own Carousel Stem Activity

Let the CMoR Carousel inspire your budding designers!

Published on January 8, 2021


By Mrs. Farnham (teacher, mom, CMoR member) 

My family loves the Carousel at CMoR downtown. The Carousel only costs $2 per ride and adults stand to ride for free! The last time we visited the museum, however, my 2 year-old decided that he was no longer a fan. After much cajoling, I gave up and pocketed the ticket for our next visit. I am now determined that he will love the carousel as much as I love seeing him ride. Of course, it’s completely normal for a 2 year-old to exert his will and he may love the carousel next time anyway. But, I always find some extra exposure helps kids get over things that may seem a bit scary. 

Enter my STEM challenge! On these cold winter days, I am often looking for indoor activities for my family. I decided to challenge my kids to make their own carousel. STEM challenges like this help kids conceptualize designs, adapt when things don’t go as planned, and rise to challenges. It is my favorite thing to see my kids bounce back after having a hard time making something. I know that this resilience will help them overcome obstacles later in life. Give it a try and see what your amazing designers can come up with! 

Make Your Own Carousel Design Challenge 

Age Range: 2 and up 


paper plates  


cardboard tubes 





hole puncher 

popsicle sticks 

The Challenge: 

For under 5 years old – Make a Carousel that spins on its base 

For 5 and older – Make a Carousel that spins on its base and has one other moving part  


1. Show kids the materials available, the picture of the CMoR Carousel above, and then explain the challenge.

2. Give them time and space to design with these caveats: 

Younger kids will need help, but be sure to listen to their ideas. Talk about the plan together and then try things out. It’s ok if their ideas don’t work at first. My 2 year-old wanted to use Play-doh instead of tape so here is what he did: 

He loved the straws so that is all he wanted to use. He wanted to stick them into the Play-doh so I suggested we use that to make the Carousel. 

Older kids may also need some help, but give them plenty of room to experiment. When they ask for help, try to guide them by asking questions about what the vision is before jumping in with solutions. Here is what my 8 year-old came up with: 

She used tape instead of Play-doh and a hole punch to insert her straws so they could be moved up and down. This movement counted as her second moving part. 

Here are the finished products: 

Can you tell who designed each? They had fun looking at each other’s projects and my 2 year-old even decided that he wanted his to be hole-punched like his sister’s. The design improvements continue! We learn so much from accepting a challenge and reflecting. 

Read Together: Carousel by Pat Cummings 

I plan to read or watch Carousel by Pat Cummings with my kids. In this book, a girl gets a toy carousel for her birthday. She gets quite the surprise when the animals from the carousel come to life. We will discuss which animal from our carousels we would ride if they came to life. 

Ride and Share 

Update on my son’s Carousel aversion: After making his own, he has decided that he wants to ride the rooster on our next visit. Fingers crossed that I finally get to use my ticket. I hope that you go and ride soon, as well! 

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