Looking for a fun way to beat boredom and reuse trash at the same time? Paper towel and toilet paper rolls are here to answer your prayers. If the pesky things are making you feel a little guilty about the size of your carbon footprint, consider recycling them right at home. Dig down and find your inner early childhood educator (we all have one lying deep within, right?) and make the use of these rolls with the littles.  

Whether you have very young children (1-2 years old) who probably won’t be too interested in participating in the actual set up but just need a fresh and new activity to enjoy, or eager crafters age 3 and up (even way up!) who are looking for a challenge, get inspired here, and “roll” with it!

 Cardboard roll kaleidoscope craft
Photo: Thrifty Fun

Activities for Young Toddlers

While the littlest ones won’t be ready for heavy duty crafts quite yet, you can reuse those paper towel and toilet paper rolls for simple activities at home with them. 

Sensory Bins

Toilet paper or paper towel rolls cut up into rings of varying widths are a great toss-in for your toddler’s sensory bin. You can also cut the cardboard into various shapes to add dimension and create an early shape recognition activity. 

Pom-Pom Pass-Through

Tape paper towel and toilet paper rolls to the wall in the playroom or kitchen and provide large pom poms that can be dropped in the top and slide through to the floor. As they grow, this can be turned into a learning game with colour matching and sorting; and other, smaller objects can be introduced when they are no longer prone to put such things in their mouths.  

Magic Wand 

Bibbidi, bobbidi, I-see-you!  Use construction or wrapping paper to make the paper towel rolls look bright and fun... Now you have a magic wand for easy dress-up time accessorising. These little pretties also double as a simple telescope for spotting Mummy across the room. Yay! 

 Cardboard roll play donut stand

Photo: Ikatbag

Activities for Crafting Toddlers

Once your little learner is ready to get involved in low-key crafting, the world of paper roll recycling really opens up. All of these ideas can be executed with either paper towel or toilet paper rolls and a few basic supplies you probably already have around the house. 

Sound Sticks

Seal one end of a toilet paper or paper towel roll with tin foil or paper secured by strong glue. Get your tiny artist to fill it with dry beans, uncooked rice, and/or beads, and then colour on the outside. Now you have a beautiful noisemaker that they’re proud to have made themselves. 

Play Food for Their Kitchen 

The options are endless here. Use the rolls to create lots of adorable food for their play kitchens. Burritos, cannoli, sushi, wraps… any cylindrical foods can be achieved. Bust out the paints, pom poms, and colourful tissue paper, and get creative. You can also use the paper towel rolls as a center pole for a donut stand as shown above. 

Paper Roll People

This is such a cute craft for little ones, and makes for interactive fun. Decorate your little “people” together with outfits and googly eyes, and then create vertical slits all around the top as “hair,” handing over your child’s safety scissors so they can cut the stripped hair down for little hair cuts as part of the play time. 

 Cardboard roll kaleidoscopes

Photo: Handmade Charlotte 

Early Elementary Activities

Kindergarteners and older kids will love getting involved in crafting and play-hour with these more advanced ideas. Two of them are home educational ideas that would also be great for homeschool families, or added enrichment to make learning fun at home after school!  

Kaleidoscope

There’s a full DIY and more photos on this website; customise this age-old craft to fit your kids’ likes and favourite colours. It’s a fun activity that you can do together and then play with all afternoon. If you have younger kids in the house, make theirs for them while Big Sis or Bro works on their own.  

Numbers Maze 

Save your next medium-sized Amazon box and cut the top off, leaving the sides about five centimetres high to make it into a tray. Then cut up paper towel or toilet paper rolls into inch-wide circles. Write the numbers 1-10 (or as high as you can go with space limitations) on one side of each circle, then tape or glue them down in the box out of order, to create a maze. 

Use a small lightweight ball or pom pom and have your child practice turning and lifting the box slightly to manipulate the ball through the tubes in number order. You can alter this activity to anything they are working on right now, if low numbers have already been mastered. 

ABC Tube

The website Busy Toddler has a cool idea for an easy paper towel roll craft for kids. The gist is that you write capital letters all over the roll, and then littles use stickers with the corresponding lowercase letters to make a match. While it’s set up here with early letters practice, you can do sight words, cursive-to-standard letters match, or other topics for little readers who have left lower-to-upper case letter learning in the dust. 

More Toddler Activities: 

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