Can you think of a medieval contraption that fascinates the young brain more than a catapult? Yeah, we can’t either. Remember in the 1988 cult classic Willow when Madmartigan uses one to fling himself onto the back of a troll and save our hero? Epic. Our obsession with catapults has been building since that formative scene took root in our early adolescent memories. It seems like an organic progression that here were are, as adults, Googling “how to build a catapult” so we can teach our kids. Or, you know, at least that’s the way we’re rationalizing our compulsion to send things flying through the air.
As luck would have it, building a catapult isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think. Granted, we’re not talking about building one elaborate enough to launch yourself over castle walls during the Battle of Nockmaar, like Willow and co. But making a basic catapult is a fun and relatively easy DIY afternoon craft to do with your little Daikinis.
With that said, here are the basics of how to build a catapult — and different variations you can make.
How To Build A Catapult: Supplies
Your materials list will vary based on what type of catapult you want to create. Plus, part of the fun of building a catapult at home is using found objects around the house. The more creative, the better! Got a bunch of random LEGOs haunting your every late-night step? See if you can put them to better use. Do you keep finding arms popped off of action figures? There’s gotta be a way to incorporate those errant limbs. So, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it should get you going:
- Rubber bands
- Plastic cutlery
- Popsicle/craft sticks
- Paper clips
- Paper or plastic cups
- Pipe cleaners
- Bottle caps
- Hot glue guns and sticks (only under supervised use, of course)
- Mini-marshmallows for launching
How to Make a Catapult with a Spoon
If your engineering skills are minimal — or your kid is still honing their fine-motor skills — a spoon catapult could be your best bet. Because, well, it can’t really get much easier. For this catapult, you just need your hot glue gun, a plastic spoon, colored electrical tape, and a wooden clothespin (the vintage style may work best here).
Squeeze your hot glue into the gap of the clothespin, sliding the handle of the spoon into the hot glue. Once the glue cools with the spoon affixed in place, wrap the area of the clothespin with the spoon handle in your electrical tape. Once everything is dried and secured, pop a mini-marshmallow into the spoon, and use your finger to bend the spoon back. The clothespin acts as a fulcrum so, when you release the spoon face, the mini-marshmallow should go flying.
How to Make a Catapult with Popsicle Sticks
Another popular option for building a DIY catapult is using popsicle/craft sticks as the base. To do this, you’d make a stack of popsicle sticks and rubber band them together on each end. Next, take two more popsicle sticks and rubberband them together only at one end (you can also use spare chopsticks for this part!). Pulling the two popsicle sticks apart to create a gap, place the larger stack of popsicle sticks in the gap. Rubber band the stack of sticks to just the upper popsicle stick of the pair.
Also on the upper popsicle stick, you’ll want to rubberband a spoon — its “head” should be secured facing up and hanging off of the top of the popsicle stick. Place a mini-marshmallow into the spoon, hold the catapult with one hand, and use your other hand to pull the spoon down. Release, and watch that sucker fly!
How to Make a Catapult Out of Wood
Are we saying you should build a massive catapult in your backyard? No. Are we also saying it would be badass? Yup. Still, we aren’t going to attempt to teach you how to do something at this scale. We will, however, point you in the direction of this tutorial by I Like To Make Stuff.
Catapults Created Using Other Stuff
There are plenty of other simple, at-home versions you can try with your kids once you’ve mastered the basics. Need inspiration? You could put together a catapult using repurposed bottle caps and a scotch tape dispenser.
Or one made entirely of pencils and rubber bands…
The idea is to get creative, right? You may wind up with more than a few catapulting fails, but figuring out what works (and what doesn’t) will be half the fun.
What are four types of catapults?
Throughout history, there were several types of catapults used to launch payloads during battles. Here are four you can make mini versions of:
Mangonel: This catapult uses a bowl-shaped arm that spins at a high speed and then tosses the item out of the bucket.
Onager: The onager uses torsion to move its throwing arm and has a similar design to the mangonel. It doesn’t use the counterweight of the payload to launch.
Ballista: This catapult looks a lot like an enormous crossbow. It uses the tension from a twisted rope to power its launch.
Trebuchet: This is a war machine and was used to throw boulders or destructive items at items. It could throw things at far distances and break walls. It uses almost a slingshot mechanism to build force.
How do you make a catapult go farther?
Your kid will love you a little extra for this one. To improve the strength of a catapult’s flinging capabilities, it needs a steady and weighted base. The sturdiness will help your objects soar. Using a bungee cord instead of rubber bands to line your machine will also help objects go the distance.
It’s important to build an arm break that stops the arm at the right angle, which in this case is an acute 45 degrees from the floor. Trust us — your mini marshmallows will get some serious air.