Pool Noodle Tic-Tac-Toe: Discovery at Home

What you need:

  • Pool noodles
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Scissors
  • Bucket of water/pool/bathtub


  1. Cut a pool noodle into four strips.
  2. Cut a pipe cleaner into about 3 inch strips (long enough so they will go through two strips of pool noodle stacked on top of each other).
  3. Lay out the four strips of pool noodle into a tic-tac-toe board.
  4. Poke a piece of pipe cleaner through the pool noodle at each intersection so the tic-tac-toe board stays in place.
  5. Create the game pieces. Use two different colored pool noodles to create little discs to use as game pieces
  6. If you have one color pool noodle, create a different shape for one player than the other.
  7. Grab a bucket of water or head to the pool to play pool noodle tic-tac-toe!

Ways to Expand the Activity:

  • Make a larger game board. You could literally expand the game by using full length pool noodles as your game board.
  • Create more sections. Use three strips of pool noodle in each direction to make the game board. In order to win you would have to get four in a row.

What Kids Learn:

  • Density is what decides whether an object sinks or floats in water. If something is less dense than water, it floats. If something is more dense than water, it sinks.
  • Basic engineering skills. Engineers solve problems with constraints. They learn to solve problems by using the engineering design process: asking questions, coming up with solutions, building, testing and improving.
  • Fine motor skills. Kids practice using the small muscles in their hands later used for writing.
  • Experimentation! When kids experiment, they're learning how to learn. Failure is an important part of experimenting, so let kids try things that won’t work. It’s how they figure things out!