Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wrapping Tube Racers

Ok, so Christmas is well past, and if you are a very organized mommy, all of your empty wrapping paper tubes may have already found their way into the recycle bin. But if you are like me – mostly organized, most of the time – you may still have a few kicking around.  Tubes or no tubes, your kids will LOVE this activity, so keep it in mind for the future…
Working for a decade in the field of early intervention, the single best toy I ever discovered was a clear plastic tube with a set of balls inside of it. Those ball tubes were like gold in my office – consultants and therapists stealthily hid them under desks and guarded them with their lives – and for good reason. Kids LOVED them, and they could be used to promote almost any learning goal we were trying to help the family attain. When the ball tubes stopped being made, my colleagues scoured ebay and second hand stores to find just one more treasured tube. And yet, the professionally agreed upon single-best-toy-ever-made is only as far as your next empty tube of gift wrap!
To recreate this fantastic toy at home, collect several small balls (ping pong balls, golf balls, and small bouncy balls all work well - just be sure to supervise babies and toddlers), and spend time with your child putting balls into the wrapping paper tube and watching them roll out of the other end. Sounds simple. But the learning benefits of this activity are literally endless. Here are just a few ideas to get you started…
Babies and Toddlers…
·    Use a shorter tube (i.e. paper towel or toilet paper roll) and show your baby how the ball goes in one side and rolls out the other. Promotes learning in the areas of cause and effect and object permanence (the understanding that the ball still exists even when your child can no longer see it).
·    Encourage your child to practice dropping the ball into the tube. Promotes fine motor development, purposeful release of objects, relational play (learning to use objects together in different ways, such as putting one object inside of another) and shape matching (matching a round ball to a round hole).
·    Sit on either end of the tube and take turns rolling the ball back and forth. Teaches turn taking and cooperative play.
·    Use simple, repetitive language to describe your play. For example, say “ready, set, GO!” each time you release the ball, then pause and wait for your child to say “go” – a great activity to promote language and communication skills.

Older Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Big Kids…
·    Swap the balls for small toy cars and use two tubes rather than one to have “races” with your child.  A fabulously fun activity that promotes togetherness. Great for promoting cooperative play (playing together rather than alongside) with friends or siblings.
·    Introduce concepts such as fast and slow, forward and backwards, stop and go. Not only is this great for language learning, but your child will challenge their gross motor and fine motor skills trying to control the speed and direction of the car inside of the tube.
Helpful Hint:
We have a long piece of plastic tubing (left over from the construction of our house) that we now use as a permanent “ball tube” in the basement. It never gets crushed like a paper tube eventually will, and it is my daughter’s absolute favourite toy!


  1. Ooooh! Sounds fun! Thanks for the suggestions. Visiting from MBC! Have a great weekend! Stop by, if you get a chance. We’d love to have ya :)

    Your new friends,
    koco & viking

    We’d love for you to come by and enter our huge giveaway that ends 1/22! 4 packages worth $69-$89 each!

  2. What a fun idea! I still have all my wrapping paper tubes in a pile in a closet upstairs--I just KNEW there was something I was saving them for!! I love how you describe different ways to play with the kiddos and things they can learn with you. Now, if only they made see-through wrapping paper tubes!


    PS. Can I add a caution hint? Watch the little ones closely--some kids just have to put everything in their mouth! I recently learned that if it can fit through a toilet paper tube it's a choking hazard...I had to go through all our toys when our baby was born!

  3. Hi! Sounds like fun! Following from MBC would love for you to return the follow

  4. Wrapping paper tubes (and other similar tubes) really are a wonder-toy. We cover ours with paper using a glue-stick and let my son decorate them. He's five, and still finds dozens of uses for the tubes. I never thought of turning them into a racing game though, thanks for that idea!

  5. Hi! found you on mombloggers and following. Great idea! I bet some plumbing pipes would work too. Thanks for the tips on what the kids learn from this. Sometimes us non-therapy moms aren't sure what kids can gain from different activities.