March 24, 2020

Build a Tabletop Foosball Game

How the brain influences our emotions

Welcome back to our Stay-at-Home Science series! While most of us are stuck at home and going stir-crazy, why not make science accessible for everyone with some fun experiments and projects you can do as a family?

Today, we’re designing and creating our very own tabletop foosball game using everyday materials.
This project will take anywhere from 30-40 minutes and is best suited for children who are in elementary or middle school.

Materials List

  • Cardboard (shoe box, cereal box, etc. can be used)
  • Skewers (chopsticks, dowels, straws, pencils) *whatever you choose needs to be longer than the shortest sides of your box*
  • Foam (or another sturdy material that can be cut into player shapes. Thicker cardboard also works well.)
  • Scissors (or box cutter)
  • Drill (or hole punch)
  • Hot glue (or tape, rubber bands)
  • Ruler
  • Marking tool (pencil, pen, etc.)
  • Ball (any small, light round object)


1. Assemble or cut box so that it has a base and four walls with no top.

2. On one long side of box, one inch from the top lip, mark out one-inch increments from down the entire side of the box, then do the same on the opposite side, making sure marks are directly across from each other. To make sure the sticks will go through correctly, marks need to be perpendicular with each other.

3. Mark out where the ‘goal’ area will be cut on the two short sides of box.

4. Carefully drill or poke out holes where you’ve marked along the long sides and cut out goal areas on the short sides.

5. Place your sticks through the holes so that the end comes out the opposite hole. Put a drop of hot glued on each of the stick ends so they won’t fall through when moving. No hot glue? Tape off or put rubber bands on each stick end.

6. Now it’s time to draw and cut out our ball players on the foam or other sturdy material. Try to size them as similarly to each other as possible and be sure they fit within the box parameters. Start with 1 Goalie and 2 attackers/defenders per team, but if you have a long enough box you may want to have a larger team of 1 goalie, 2 defenders, and 3 strikers per side.

7. Glue (or tape) the players in position. It’s important that they are high enough to not drag on the floor of the box when sticks are twisted.

8. Put the ball into the play area and try it out! If something seems off, take a close look at your design and think about what can be improved to make the game go a little smoother.

How to adjust for younger or older learners

For younger learners, try using a larger goal area. If it’s difficult for them to coordinate so many moving parts with the rows of player sticks, try having just one player piece on each side.

For older learners try a smaller goal area. Experiment with player add-ons like weight at their feet or changing their range of motion by adjusting where they attach to the row sticks. What other objects can you play with as the ball and how does it affect the difficulty of the game?

Done with this activity and ready to take on another experiment? Try learning about surface tension with water and a penny here.