Foam Sailboats

This foam sailboat craft is one of the DIY projects for kids that combines fun and science. This cute, foam sailboat craft isn’t just a fun toy, it’s also a great way to introduce an experiment that even very young children can participate in. This sailboat has a rudder that can be place in the three positions. Each position will steer the boat in a different direction.

Before you start, ask your child what direction he or she thinks the boat will go and write it down. After you try it, compare what happened with what you predicted. This can lead to some fun discussions of why the prediction and result matched, or didn’t!

  1. Ages: 3 - 8

  2. <30 minutes

  3. A little messy


Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Gather the materials you need to make your foam sailboat craft.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    First, we made our boat. I just traced a boat shape onto the foam, and then had my son do the cutting.

    Once we had the basic shape, I cut a slit in the middle for the sail. This can be done with scissors, but might be a little easier with a craft knife. Obviously, this is a grownup task!

    Finally, you need to cut slits in the back for the rudder. This is also best done by a grownup because you will want to be fairly precise. Start by cutting one slit perpendicular to the back of the boat. That slit will hold the rudder straight.

    Then, cut a second slit at an angle. That slit will hold the rudder angled to one side. Finally, cut a third slit to hold the rudder at an angle on the other side.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    For the rudder, you can use any thin piece of plastic. We found a plastic lid in the recycling bin. Cut out a small rectangle.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    To make your sail, cut two slits in a piece of stiff paper. We used a piece of colorful cardstock, which looked really nice, but regular printer paper will work as well.

    Then, poke the craft stick through the two slits. This will be your mast.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Step 5

    Stick the craft stick into the slit in the middle of the boat. You’re ready to sail!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Photo reference of how to complete step 6


    The best place to sail your boat and test out the rudder is a tub of calm water. Of course, it’s fun to play with as a bath toy as well. It’s just that the splashing will interfere with the rudder action.

    Start with the rudder in the middle position and have your child blow into the sail to move the boat forward. Once you get the hang of that, trying moving the rudder to one of the side slits. Which way does the boat turn?

    Have fun sailing your boat!

  • Learn moremagnifying icon graphic

    When you blow into the sail, the rudder smacks into the water as the boat moves through it. The water pushes against the rudder, but if the rudder is turned to one side, the water doesn’t push evening. One side of the rudder gets a bigger push from the water than the other, and the boat turns. The rudder on a real boat works the same way — just much bigger!

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