DIY Sponge Sailboats – Shipwrecked VBS Imagination Station Alternative

Day 5’s gizmo is the power paddler.  Instead of purchasing the paddle boat from Group, we’re making DIY Sponge Sailboats, then having boat races!  Check out the tutorial below for easy and cheap DIY Sponge Sailboats.

This post may contain affiliate links.  I earn a small percentage of anything you purchase through these links but you don’t pay anything extra.  Thanks for helping to support Borrowed Blessings!  The prices referenced here are current as of publishing, but retailers change pricing often.

This year’s VBS theme is Shipwrecked {learn more about the theme here}.  The VBS kits are available now.  All of our VBS resources are designed to be used alongside any of the Group starter kits, although I HIGHLY recommend purchasing the ultimate version with digital.

If the Group gizmos work for your kids and you’d like to purchase them without any modification, check out my post about how to purchase the Group gizmos at a discount!

During the Imagination Station rotation, students participate in an object lesson using a small toy, or what Group calls a “gizmo”.  These gizmos can be taken home by the kids each day to reinforce the lesson.  In this Imagination Station Alternative series, I’ll track down similar gizmos that can be used in place of Group’s gizmos.  I’ll also design/find craft ideas that could be used instead of the gizmos.  Which Imagination Station activity you choose (gizmo or craft) should be dependent on the interests of your VBS kids and how you prefer to spend your time/money.

Daily Bible Point: When you’re powerless, Jesus rescues.

Today’s Group Gizmo: Power Paddlers (Rubber band powered paddle boats) $.89 per kid

Group Gizmo’s purpose: The rubber band gives the boat power, just like Jesus gives us his power. 

Recently, I shared a few gizmo alternatives for the Group power paddler (boat-building kits).  We can do better than that, though – today we’re testing DIY Sponge Sailboats!

You can easily use the message that Jesus gives us his power through a sail boat (blow on the sail with a straw… Jesus gives us his power just like blowing air gives the boat power).


Straws (2 per kid)
Craft foam or construction paper
Stickers or permanent markers
Vinyl gutters with end caps
Sawhorses (at least 2) or table


1. (Before VBS) Cut a small hole in the center of the sponge.

2. Put a piece of painter’s tape in the middle of the gutters (at the 5′ mark if you’re using 10′ gutters).  This will be your finish line.  You’ll need one gutter per two racers at a time.

3. Add water to the gutters.

4. (At VBS) Give each student a sponge.  They will need to put a straw in the hole to hold the sail (this can be a full-sized straw, or they can cut it shorter if they think that’ll work better).

5. Create & decorate a sail – you can make the sails from craft foam or construction paper, then decorate with markers, stickers, etc.  Our sample boats had construction paper sails, but once they got wet they were useless… I’d suggest using foam if you can!  (Kids can choose their sail material, the size of the sail, the height of the straw, etc to try and build the fastest boat!)

6. Cut holes in the sail, then attach it to the straw (a hole punch may work for this).

7. Choose 2 students per gutter for boat races..  Let students give the boats power by blowing on the sail using a straw.  The first person in each gutter to touch the painter’s tape wins that round.  Continue playing until you have a winner!

What kind of sponges should I use?

We tested two types of sponges from Dollar Tree: a scrubby sponge (blue) and the nail guard sponges, which are a more squarely-shaped sponge (green and yellow).  Much to my surprise, the green and yellow (cheaper) sponge did way better than the blue (more expensive) sponge!  The blue sponge got soaked and sank in both of our test runs.  The yellow sponge didn’t sink!

The yellow and green sponges come in a 7 pack at Dollar Tree, so they’re only 14 cents each!  The construction paper and markers may be items already in your supply closet, so this is a super frugal craft!

What gizmo alternatives have you found for Shipwrecked VBS?

I am a long-time Vacation Bible School lover.  I’ve lead in several capacities throughout the VBS world and am currently our church’s VBS director.  It is a joy for me to be able to share VBS ideas and resources with others!  I will continue to share VBS ideas here as we prepare for Shipwrecked VBS.  Follow the blog to see more of our ideas and planning!  Please let me know if there are any specific VBS items or ideas you need help with!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.