Building with straws and cardboard rolls Building activities are always a great way to spend an afternoon! I saw this idea on Almost Unschoolers to make homemade Tinker Toys with toilet paper rolls and pencils. We didn’t have a lot of pencils on hand, so I decided to use straws. I’ve been saving paper towel rolls for a few months, so I had quite a stash built up!

I set out a stack of paper towel rolls, scissors, straws, and a hole punch. Then I showed the boys how they could build by punching a hole with the hole punch, making the hole a little bigger with a pencil, and then sticking a straw through. Fun! They got right to work.

I was thinking of building structures like I saw on Almost Unschoolers, but the boys wanted to make forts. So they added cardboard from the recycling bin and tape.

Building with cardboard rolls and straws If you want a super sturdy cardboard house to play with, I’d just use a box. Our creations were fairly sturdy, but wouldn’t hold up to a lot of play. But I thought that the process involved in this activity was great! Planning, using the hole punch, figuring out what lengths to cut, etc.

Owen (age 3) and I built this fort. He showed me how he wanted the bottom to be, and then I helped him add a top level.

Building with cardboard rolls and straws - fun! The older boys worked for an HOUR on the project!

Building with paper towels and straws!

Gresham built most of this fort himself. He had a little trouble getting it to sit correctly because he hadn’t punched the holes at the same height all the way around. I helped him fix it so that it would be more sturdy. It was really easy to add cardboard walls to the design that he came up with!

Building with Cardboard Rolls and Straws

Gresham’s finished fort:

Building with Cardboard Rolls and Straws And Aidan’s completed fort – he quit building with straws and just went for height!

Building with cardboard tubes and straws!

I think it might be fun to do this again and stick to just straws and paper towel rolls, but then again, the boys had fun, so it was a success!

(By the way, we recycled our creations soon after we made them. I usually don’t let them keep this kind of thing more than a few days unless it’s genuinely holding their interest and they’re still playing with it.)


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  1. Liz May 1, 2013

    Love this idea! I've really enjoyed your blog and all of your wonderful ideas. My son is 13 months, but I hope to try out many of these ideas in the future.

  2. Georgina @ Craftulate May 1, 2013

    Looks like a fantastic cheap and entertaining activity!

    1. Susan Oct 3, 2014

      The kids seem to enjoy it, too! ;)

  3. katepickle May 1, 2013

    Now I need to start collecting tubes!!! Thanks for this awesome idea!

  4. catrina May 8, 2013


  5. Yvonne May 14, 2013

    LOVE the hole punch and straw idea! I think I will be creating a free build station with tubes and straws for the kids.

  6. PAUL Sep 21, 2013

    C BIEN

  7. Susanbox Oct 3, 2014

    The cardboard tubes are genius; they stand up right away. It gives the children easy success to start. You encouraged their ideas by letting them add their own materials, too. Great idea and excellent modelling for those of us following! Thanks!

  8. Nina Clevelnd Weisser Dec 5, 2014

    Why is this only fun for boys? This would be great for girls, too.

  9. Kathy Mar 6, 2015

    Awesome Ideas!!! I always hold onto paper towel rolls, with the thought, "what can we do with these?" Now I know, thanks to you!

  10. K. Zach Jul 24, 2019

    Whenever I google a project for my afterschool STEM group, your posts come up. This is quality stuff. Thank you.


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