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Balloon Powered Boats

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Pinterest is a great place to get ideas, but you just never know how things are going to turn out. These little boats were almost a major fail, but with a little engineering on our part, we turned them into something that is fun and actually works!


๐Ÿ”ฒ kitchen sponge

๐Ÿ”ฒ PVC elbow, 1/2" 90 degree (This is in place of the flexible plastic tubing that was listed in the original shopping list. We discovered that tubing could only be purchased in a 10 foot roll at our hardware store, so we had to improvise!)

๐Ÿ”ฒ balloon

๐Ÿ”ฒ water bottle cap

๐Ÿ”ฒ nail

๐Ÿ”ฒ hot glue gun

๐Ÿ”ฒ ruler

Note: You will need some form of water to complete this activity. A pool, kiddie pool, pond, or bathtub will work! Just have your water ready to go so you can jump in when the boats are finished.

To Make:

Using a ruler, measure the length of the short side of the sponge. Find the middle and mark it.

Measure two inches down on each long side and mark it.

Connect your dots from the sides of the boat to the center to make the bow of the boat. Cut it to make a triangular shape. (SAVE THE SPONGE SCRAPS! YOU WILL NEED THEM FOR THE CATAPULTS!)

Find the middle of the sponge by measuring from the point to the bottom and mark it. Then, using a knife or scissors, gently poke a hole in the center of the boat and cut out a small circle large enough for your PVC elbow to fit through.

Give your balloon a good stretch and then gently attach it to one end of the PVC elbow. Be careful--if you pull too hard, the balloon will break! Place the other end of the elbow through the hole in the sponge.

This is where our genius hack comes in! At this point, you were supposed to blow up the balloon through the tube and then set it in the water and let it go, but that was a total bust. Why? Because the tube is so large that it lets the air out too fast. (I don't have any way of knowing for sure that the flexible tubing would have been different, but I have to think it would have been much the same since it has a fairly wide opening, too.) We were bummed. But then we figured out how to make it work!

First, find a water bottle cap (if you saved the ones from your bubble blowers, use those!) and use a nail to poke some holes through it. After trial and error, we found five holes to be the magic number.

Using a hot glue gun, attach the bottle cap to the PVC elbow. It should be a perfect fit. Use some extra glue to make a "seal" on the outside all the way around where the cap and the elbow meet. Use your finger to smooth out the glue to create the seal.

Now you're ready to set sail. Blow through the holes in the bottle cap to fill the balloon. (This was really tricky for my 6 year-old at first, but she figured it out after a few tries.) Use your hand to block the air until you are ready to launch.

Place the boat in the water and make sure the bow is pointed forward and the elbow is pointed backward. Then release and watch it motor away.

To set sail again, just wring out the sponge and refill the balloon!

Bon voyage!


How far did your boats sail? Let us know by sharing photos/videos!

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