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Holiday activities: Make this marvellous mini mangonel with Mr Shaha

Looking for cheap holiday activities? The Big Issue has teamed up with science teacher and writer Alom Shaha for some cheap and fun creations for kids as part of our Summer Survival Guide.

Alom Shaha wears a blue shirt sitting at a table and preparing to firehis mini catapult made from a spoon and cup

This marvellous mini mangonel — a type of catapult — is a perfect cheap and fun summer holiday activity. Image: Alom Shaha/YouTuBe

Long, hot summers are the stuff childhood dreams are made of. Ball games in the park or garden, arts and crafts on the kitchen table, faces sticky with ice-cream washed off with water pistols.

For working parents, it can be a lot to juggle, and more and more are struggling with the cost of childcare while holding down a job, especially over the school holidays.

If you’re a parent or guardian and you’re wondering how to fill those days, The Big Issue has teamed up with the science teacher, writer and film-maker Alom Shaha for a series of home-made holiday activities for kids to get stuck into. And best of all, they’re all made with bits and bobs you can find around the house.

Make Mr Shaha’s mini mangonel

A mangonel is a type of catapult, but this one won’t be knocking down any walls. Kids can work together to make their mini mangonels to see if they can hit a target or throw their chosen projectile further. They could even put on a carboard crown and make castles out of loo-roll tubes and boxes to complete the set!

Mr Shaha says: “A mangonel is a type of catapult that was used to fire large rocks at castles during sieges.

“The word ‘mangonel’ is derived from the Greek, meaning ‘engine of war’, but this mini version was devised by my friend Jonathan Sanderson to help you investigate what factors affect the distance that it will throw a projectile.”

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A plastic or tin cup
  • A dessert spoon (preferably plastic)
  • A piece of scrap cardboard — at least as wide as the bottom of your cup and twice as long
  • 1 or more rubber bands
  • Different types of rubber band (optional)
  • A projectile like a table-tennis ball or piece of scrunched-up aluminium foil
  • Scissors
  • Sticky tape or masking tape

Ready? Here’s how to get going:

Cut a square of cardboard so that it covers the bottom of your cup.

Use a long piece of tape to stick the cardboard square to the bottom of your cup.

Cut another square the same size as the first one, then cut it in half to make a rectangle.

Stick the cardboard rectangle to the handle of your spoon, wrapping the sticky tape around a couple of times to make it really secure. Alternatively, you could use small rubber bands to hold the spoon in place.

Cut a length of tape and use it to make a hinge attaching the card with the spoon to the card on the mug, as shown.

Stand the cup up and slip a rubber band over the top.

Hold the table-tennis ball or your ball of scrunched-up kitchen foil in the spoon, pull it back, and fire!

“What things could you change to make the projectile go further?,” Mr Shaha asks. “Can you make the mangonel more accurate so that it hits a target more reliably? What happens if you use a heavier or lighter projectile?”

Watch the video below for the step-by-step guide and find more of Mr Shaha’s books and projects on his website.

Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines is available from all good book shops.

Here’s our Summer Survival Guide, which we will update regularly with new articles and tips on making sure your kids have a fun summer without breaking the bank

Get involved with the conversation on social media and share all your tips and advice for families using the #SummerSurvivalGuide

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