Toilet Paper Solar System

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In this activity, learners build a scale model of the solar system using a roll of toilet paper. There are two separate handout versions included for making either a 200-sheet model (85 feet) or a 100-sheet model (42 feet). The instructions suggest using gel pens on cheap, flat toilet paper to mark the name and location of the sun, the planets, and Ceres (to represent the asteroid belt). The background information includes limits of this model: these are average distances since planetary orbits are elliptical, and the planets will never actually be in a straight line like they are here. There is also a math scaling extension.

Quick Guide

  • Preparation Time: Under 5 minutes
  • Learning Time: 10 to 30 minutes
  • Estimated materials cost: $1 - $5 per group of students
  • Age Range: Ages 6 - adult
  • Resource Types:
  • Language: English

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Table of distances to give to participants (Two to choose from. The longer [200 sheets] requires 85 ft.,the shorter [100 sheets] requires 42 ft. of space)
  • One roll of toilet paper, 201 sheets or more, per family
  • Felt-tip marker(s) or gel pen, preferably 10 colors; but one pen per family will do
  • Clear tape for repairs

Informal Category

  • Model Building


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
      • Size and Scale
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
      • The Planets
      • Asteroids and Comets
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
    • Number and Operations
      • Multiples and Factors

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

This resource is part of


Suzanne Chippindale; Gerald Mallon

Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


All Rights Reserved, Project ASTRO, Astronomical Society of the Pacific, ©2001

Printed Materials



Innovative idea

Wow!!!! what an innovative idea of creating a solar system with the help of the toilet paper. It is something very unusual. I think it is the best use of the toilet paper. Great going keep it up developing such new ideas.

bathroom humor

What a great way to give a nod to kid's love of bathroom humor, but keep it clean. This is a great small group activity, lots of counting and marking to do, but is problematic outside. TP tears just a little too easily if you try to do it outside. By the time you're done, though, you have a real sense of the closeness of the inner planet orbits and vast distances between the outer planets. Terrific!

I like this activity and it makes me think

fairly simple materials - but it is something tothink about - building a model of the universe using toilet paper.. does this diminish the content?