8th Week of Christmas – Tube Kit

Naptime Gnome Idea #14

Just Because They’re Tiny Builders, Doesn’t Mean They Need to Build Tiny Things

IMG_1716Do you have any little builders to surprise this year? Our little people LOVE to build and they aren’t picky about their building materials either, blocks, DSCN1406

toilet paper rolls (thank you Costco!), IMG_1979

pillows, blankets, DSCN7298

if they can lift it, they’ll gladly construct something with it. Little Bear always really liked playing with my stash of PVC pipes. As young as about 11 months, he’d sit on the floor of my craft room and try to put them end to end, only to become exasperated when he couldn’t get them to stick. Eventually, after him placing MY hands on the tubes he wanted put together, time and time again, he started showing off his own ingenuity using couplings!


Practicing for Blue Man Group. He loves making musical instruments.

3 Years later, he’s still playing the same tune, the instruments are just a little more colorful!

A couple years ago he got a huge surprise: “Colored Tubes!”


The colored pouches contain couplings of the same color. I used the same spray paint as the contained pieces, on both the white fabric and elastic. The long tubes at either end hold the bag’s shape when closed. The outside of the bag has pockets for accessories, like curtains. There is also a spot for the idea book… that I’m just now finishing… they’ll get that for Christmas THIS year.

The Details

This simple project resulted in one of his favorite toys to this day. I simply cut PVC with a chop saw (most saws or pipe cutters should do the job), and bought a bunch of pipe connectors, color coded them with spray paint, and POOF!, the possibilities are endless! The most time consuming part was the bag, that NEVER gets used, a big basket or a toy box contains them just fine.  Now that he’s four, he’s building his own musical instruments, golf clubs, “houses,” DSCN3344and various labyrinthine structures, but he still prefers the old standbys of the puppet theater, and geometric shapes.DSCN3347

You can do just about anything when building your custom tube kit, but here are a few suggestions based on our successes and faux pas:

  • Think up a few designs and figure out what lengths and couplings would work best for you and yours (I’ve included mine below).

Green = small 8″, Purple = Medium 18″, Blue = Large 38″

  • After you know how many different types of pieces you’ll have, you’ll need enough paint colors to color code. Raid the bargain paint area of your local DIY store, or rummage through your stash of spray paint (if you’re like me, you already have a hearty supply) and figure out which colors you will use.

    Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 12.32.23 AM

    This is an excerpt from the book they will be getting this year… future MVP maybe? 😉 It shows the pieces included in the kit.

  • Figure our how much space the couplings take up when inline. THIS IS HUGE! This simple step will allow your tube kit to be endlessly versatile, allowing your little builder to make breaks for supports, or use multiple tubes to equal a larger tube. To do this, take two lengths of pipe (scraps are great… less to measure) and insert them into a coupling, one on either end. Measure the entire length, then subtract the lengths of the individual pipes. The couplings I used added about 2″ of length. After you establish the length you would like to use for your longest tubes, estimate your smaller sizes to reflect (x -2)/2, where x is the length of the next longest tube. EXAMPLE: Mine were 8″, 18″, and 38″. 38″ – 2″ for the coupling, is 36″, divided by 2 (to make two tubes + a coupling) is 18″, we repeat this to get the smallest tube length: 18″ – 2 = 16″/2 = 8″.
  • Using painters tape, make one loop around each end of every tube before painting. I didn’t do this, thinking it would be nice if they stuck together a little more snuggly… WRONG-O! I’ve spent oodles of playtime with a scrap of sand paper in hand removing the paint from the ends of particularly stubborn tubes.
  • You’ll also want to stuff something in the end of each coupling to prevent over spray (paper towel or newspaper works)… I didn’t do this either… <:-/
  • If you’re handy with a sewing machine, include a few fabric accessories, I made some simple (not to mention poorly constructed… but the littles don’t mind) curtains, to be used in a puppet theater, but they get used as window dressings and all sorts of other things as well. In the future I want to make them a soccer net and a cover to put over a playhouse frame, maybe this year.

    Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 1.37.41 AM

    Another book excerpt

The best part of this gift is it’s constantly changing!  What may be a house one day, is a shopping cart the next! DSCN4831_2

This year the kids are getting a book of design ideas and possibly some new “accessories!”

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 12.31.59 AM

Christmas 2013: The book of ideas to help them think outside the box! 😉

We’d love to see what you’ve built! Please share you’re creations!


-The Naptime Gnome

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