Play Plan: Cardboard Tube Toddler Activity

Independent Toddler Activity

We use a large quantity of paper towels in our home so we frequently have an abundance of cardboard tubes. When paired with just a few materials from around the house, these tubes are a great tool for planned play cardboard tube toddler activity!

My toddler had so much fun with the pom-poms that were used for our color sorting activity, so I immediately thought they should be utilized with the extra cardboard tubes. 

Setting up the cardboard tube activity with pom-poms

I selected five colors of pom-poms and taped each one to a cardboard tube so the tube would be assigned a color.

Next I used painter’s tape to attach the tubes to a wall. (I love painter’s tape when doing toddler activities and hanging artwork the kids make because it does not damage your walls!)

Finally, I made sure to select pom-poms in each color so that we would have something to place in each tube and I placed them in a plastic container.

I used this play plan first with my toddler as a quiet activity while my husband was bathing his younger brother.

When presented with the materials, he examined the tubes and pointed out the different colors trying to name the color of the pom-pom on each tube.

I modeled putting the soft pom-poms individually into the tubes.

We practiced matching colors and putting orange pom-poms into the orange tube. He soon was able to do this on his own and would collect the pom-poms from the floor and start again.

This was a great independent activity for him that kept him engaged far longer than I anticipated. He focused on the pom-poms and the individual tubes as he worked on his hand-eye coordination.

Observing cause and effect

Once he had exhausted the fun of matching colors, we worked together to stuff all of the pom-poms into a single tube so they would get stuck. He would hand me the tube and I would blow into it, causing all of the pom-poms to come shooting out. After much giggling we repeated the process.

When we had all of the pom-poms in the tube I would ask, “What will happen when I blow?” and he would reply “Boom” (his way of telling me the pom-poms would explode out). We played with these few items until it was time to wind down for bed.

I was excited about how engaged he was with these simple materials.

Modifying the cardboard tube toddler activity for a younger child

The following day I wanted to try using the cardboard tubes to work on hand-eye coordination with our baby (who was almost 1 year old).

While his older brother was napping I adapted the activity since I knew the pom-poms were not a safe material for this little guy as he would certainly try to eat them!

I opted for three aluminum foil balls and just one tube taped to the wall.

Cheap toddler activity cardboard tube

I modeled picking up a ball and placing it in the top of the tube. He observed what I was doing and giggled as the foil hit the floor.

Soon he was joining in and participating in dropping the balls into the tube. We continued this game for about 10 minutes together before he wanted to explore the cardboard tube further.

Cardboard Tube toddler activity fun

I took it off of the wall for him. He tasted the tube and he tasted the foil. (I wasn’t kidding about why I knew the pom-poms would not be a good fit for him!)

We rolled the tube on floor and then he would push the foil with the tube, all the while working on hand-eye coordination in ways I had not even planned!

This was one of the easiest play plans to construct, but provided great benefits for both baby and toddler.

Simple supplies make for great learning with this play plan!


  • cognitive development: focusing on one object; matching colors; observing cause and effect
  • physical skills: hand-eye coordination
  • engaged senses – touch and sight


  • Painter’s tape or masking tape
  • Clear tape (optional – to attach pom-pom/color label)
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Pom-poms, aluminum foil, or paper balls

Differentiation ideas:

  • Hold the tubes rather than applying to the wall to create a varied depository
  • Have an older child paint/decorate the tubes in specified colors
  • Count the number of objects put through each tube for a lesson on counting
  • Give the tubes points to make it a math lesson for older children

Level of mess:

  • Clean

easy toddler activities at home

Cardboard Tube Toddler Activity: simple supplies make for great learning!

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