Tower of Hanoi is a super simple, surprisingly fun logic game suitable for early elementary through adults.
I have a weakness for solitaire games, especially logic puzzles. I’ve built up a respectable collection thanks to thrift stores and yard sales, but there’s always room for one more puzzle in my life, especially one that’s NOT made from plastic!
This Tower of Hanoi is NOT made from plastic! Instead, it’s made from that likely-looking piece of corrugated cardboard hanging out there in your recycling bin. Cut it up, add some decorations, and you’ll have yourself a brand-new version of a 140-year-old logic game.
Here’s everything that you’ll need to DIY your own Tower of Hanoi:
- corrugated cardboard. Since the pieces are manipulatives, I prefer the thicker, sturdier corrugated cardboard over the thinner kind for this project.
- measuring and cutting tools. You’ll need circles of varying diameters to use as templates for your Tower of Hanoi pieces. Look around, and I bet you can scavenge these circles from your existing bottles, cups, caps, etc.
- embellishment supplies (optional). You don’t *need* to embellish the pieces, but since when did that stop anyone from making something pretty?
Step 1: Measure and cut the pieces.
You can play Tower of Hanoi with three or more pieces, but I think seven or eight pieces are a good total number to have. You can always subtract pieces from a larger set to make a round easier!
To make the complete puzzle look like a lovely tower, select circle templates with different diameters, ideally ones that will give a nice graduated look from smallest to largest when you stack them. As you can see from the above photo, you should be able to find all of these circle templates around your house. My smallest circle template is an eensy SodaStream flavoring bottle cap, and my largest is the top of a plastic drink cup from my favorite pizza place–I also used the bottom of the cup to make a different circle!
Trace all the circles onto corrugated cardboard, then cut them out by hand with sturdy scissors.
If you like the way the undecorated Tower of Hanoi looks, you’re done! However, I think the game looks a LOT cuter with some embellishment…
Step 2: Decorate the pieces.
With seven pieces to my puzzle, how could I NOT make a rainbow?
One of the many amazing things about corrugated cardboard is that it takes all kinds of embellishment like an absolute dream. I painted these circles with Liquitex acrylics, but Sharpies or even Crayola markers all show up well. Use Mod Podge to decoupage scrapbook paper, or paint plus paint pens to make more detailed artworks on these tiny canvases.
Step 3: Play!
The rules of Tower of Hanoi are simple:
- Start with the tower stacked with the circles in descending order, smallest to largest.
- You have three total spaces in which you can work, and you start with the stacked tower sitting on one space. Younger players might benefit from having a play mat on which you’ve drawn out three spaces for them, but it’s unnecessary for older players.
- The objective of the game is to reassemble the tower on another space. The reassembled tower must again be stacked with the circles in descending order, smallest to largest.
- You may move one circle at a time between any of the three spaces.
- You may NOT stack a circle on top of a circle that is smaller than it. Circles can only be put on empty spaces or stacked on top of circles that are larger than them.
The above photos illustrate a couple of different moves in the game. I don’t want to give you too many moves so that I don’t spoil your fun, but you can see from the photos the three working spaces, and the circles that are placed on a space or on top of a larger circle.
Remember that you can’t move an entire stack of circles at once–you can move only one circle at a time!
If you want to see the game in action, check out this online playable version.
If you’re a mathy kind of person, there IS a mathematical solution, and a pattern, to this puzzle. Figuring out how to record your moves is also a great introduction to analog coding, for those of you interested in STEM enrichment.
Want to give someone you love a sneakily educational gift? A beautifully embellished Tower of Hanoi inside a lovely little carrying case is just the thing!
Know a kid who’s high-energy and always seems to need more gross motor activity? Upscale this to a giant 3D version that they have to use their whole bodies to stack! Exercising their brain will make them just as tired as exercising their body, so you might even get a full night’s sleep!
Do you have a favorite homemade solitaire game? Tell us about it in the Comments!