The Never Ending Potential of Gumball Machines


Have you ever noticed the allure of gumball machines – especially with children?  I don’t know about you, but spotting a gumball machine in a drug store, gas station, grocery store, or kids play center always seems to entice my children.   A classic gumball machine is a perfect example of fun and nostalgia.

This project was a bit time consuming, but so worth it in the end.  Of course, you can get creative with your own ideas.

We’ve made DROP BOXES before.  This is somewhat an extension of that… with the added fun of a gumball machine!

Here are the things we used…..


Gumball Machines (we found ours on a local buy/sell/trade site)

Wooden Balls


Wooden Squares

Wood Burning Tool

Wood Burning Letters

Plastic Balls

Wooden Boxes (2)

Wood Boring Bit

My first plan was to address color recognition and letter recognition.  I painted all of the wooden balls, and used the wood burning tool to burn letters into the wooden squares.  I used a wood boring bit to make holes in the tops of the wooden box.  These boxes were mostly to keep the materials contained, there are so many other options you can use at home -like colored cups or cups with letters written on them.



The students LOVED the gumball machines, and it was a joy watching them learn from each other.  Once the allure of the machines started to fade, we put them away for a while.  A few weeks later, the children were asking for them again, so we brought them back out.  This time we added Legos to the plastic balls, and the children were able to add on to a collaborative Lego creation at the table.  In another machine we placed beads into the plastic balls…and the children were able to use the beads to make bracelets or necklaces.


There really are so many things you can do with these, and they are so fun.  Just make sure you have LOTS and LOTS of quarters.

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