Paper Towel Roll Baby Play: Discovery at Home

Materials Needed:

  • Paper towel roll.
  • Masking tape/stickers/contact paper/shelf paper.
  • Bowl (silver if possible)
  • Ball or other objects to put in or bang on bowls (utensils, basting brush)


  • Decorate the paper towel roll.
  • There are multiple ways to use the paper towel roll.
    • Have baby lay on their back focusing on the paper towel roll above their head and move the roll from side to side (left to right) to work on visual tracking with baby. This is a great activity for 3 months when your baby’s vision is developing.
    • Lay baby on their tummy and have baby reach and grab for the roll, if the baby doesn’t like being on their tummy try putting them on a Boppy. This assists baby with large and fine motor muscle skills. At 4-6 months babies are developing their grasping and holding technique.
    • Let the baby reach for, grab and hold the paper towel roll, bang it on the ground or on a bowl.
    • Drop a ball or other object down the tube to demonstrate cause and effect. Let baby try, too! Anything small enough to go through a paper towel tube is a choking hazard, so this activity should be carefully supervised.

How to Expand it:

  • At 3 months: while baby is on their back, put the paper towel roll to one side of the baby's head and work on having the baby reach and grab for the paper towel roll to work on rolling over.
  • Once your baby is tracking their vision from side to side, use the paper towel roll to move an arc in front and then behind baby’s head to follow with their vision.
  • Bowl: expand to put different objects inside the bowl, use a silver bowl if you have one, baby can see themselves in the silver bowls and it becomes a fun mirror. Add different utensils to bang on the bowl that are different weights i.e. different size spoons - plastic and metal, spatulas, a whisk, basting brush.
  • Looking for some fun ways to use a paper towel roll with older kids? Check out STEAM Fun with Paper Towel Tubes! for five great ideas.

How does the baby benefit?

You are your baby’s best play toy! Babies will benefit with any type of play or interaction that you have with them. This activity is great for babies to work on their vision, grasping and fine and gross motor development.


  • Vision Tracking: the ability to move the eyes from left to right or right to left or up and down across the visual field
  • Gross and fine motor development: Motor skill development involves the muscle movement of the body. Motor skills are divided into two groups fine and gross motor development. Gross motor skills include large movements of the arms, legs, feet or the entire body like crawling, running and jumping. Fine motor skills are smaller actions using the fingers and thumb for grasping. Both motor skills typically develop together and you will find that your child can be more interested in fine motor learning while they’re developing and then switch to being more active and engaging more in gross motor activities until they are 2 ½ years old.
  • Grasp: to hold an object using fingers and thumb. Newborns are born with the grasp reflex. As your baby develops you will notice that your baby will grasp objects, which precedes reaching for objects and uses more head and body control as well as eye control.