5 Paper Towel Crafts You Can Do With Kids

Do you have kids that are bored in the house — and a growing piles of waste? Tackle two problems at once. 


Apr. 28 2020, Updated 1:26 p.m. ET

recycled paper towel crafts
Source: iStock

Now that we’re going on week seven of coronavirus quarantine (is that right? Week seven? We don’t even know what day it is anymore), you might be looking at your home like you’ve never seen it before. Bottles that would normally go in the recycling bin? Those could be upcycled into planters! Egg cartons? Make them into fire-starters! 

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Quarantine has a way of bringing out our creativity (maybe because some of us have more time on our hands than usual or maybe because we’re all bored as anything). If you’ve found yourself discovering projects around the house, then congratulations! We call that quarantine creativity and you’ve found yours. 

There are a lot of different projects you can do to get those creative juices flowing, from kid-friendly recycling projects to making all-natural soap. One of the easiest ways to channel your quarantine creativity is to make crafts out of paper towels — both the sheets and the cardboard rolls when you’re done with it. After all, most of us have a ton of toilet paper and paper towel rolls laying around the house, especially now during sheltering in place (even those of us that usually live a low- or zero-waste lifestyle).

Keep reading for five paper towel crafts to do at home. 

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DIY Kaleidoscope

diy paper towel kaleidoscope
Source: iStock

Many of us are quarantining with kids, so if you need a family-friendly paper towel craft idea, start by transforming a paper towel tube into a kaleidoscope. For this DIY kaleidoscope craft — adapted from Darcy and Brian, you will need the following materials:

  • Paper towel tube
  • 12x12 card stock or scrapbook paper
  • Clear plastic 
  • Cardboard
  • Aluminum foil
  • Beads
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun

In addition to these eight materials, you will also need anything you’d like to decorate with. You can decorate with more paper, markers, washi tape, pipe cleaners, stickers, or fabric.

To make this DIY kaleidoscope, start by adding hot glue to the scrapbook paper, then rolling the paper towel tube over the glue so that the paper sticks onto the tube. Make sure to cut off any excess. Next, trace the bottom circle of the paper towel tube on the clear plastic three times, cutting out three circles of the plastic. Hot glue one of the plastic circles to the bottom of the tube, then in the open end of the tube, add your colorful beads. The second plastic circle goes inside the tube, over the beads. You can accomplish this by using a pencil to push it down in place over the beads.

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Next, cut three 1-inch wide strips of cardboard that are as long as the paper towel tube. Cover each of these strips with foil, hot gluing the foil to the cardboard if you have to. Stand the three tinfoiled cardboard strips into a 3D-triangle shape, like a tent. Using hot glue, glue the strips together in this triangle shape, then place it inside of the paper towel tube. Glue the final plastic circle on top of the open end of the paper towel tube, then you’re done! All that’s left to do is decorate the exterior of the kaleidoscope.

DIY Phone Holder

Have you always wanted one of those fancy phone holders? They’re great for reading a recipe while cooking in the kitchen or FaceTiming your friends and family, hands-free. But they can be pricey. We love this DIY phone holder because it takes something that would have been scrapped otherwise — the TP or paper towel tubes — and turns it into something that’s functional. 

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To make this DIY phone holder, also from The Sea Man Mom, you will need the following materials:

  • Scissors
  • Thumbtacks 
  • Washi tape, tissue paper, construction or scrapbook paper, or anything else to decorate

This DIY is really simple. All you really need to do is cut a slit in your paper towel tube with some scissors. Make sure the slit is the length of your smartphone’s bottom. Next, add four thumbtacks to the bottom of the tube-turned-phone-stand. These will be the stand’s legs. All that’s left to do is decorate! 

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You can decorate with washi tape, paint, tissue paper, construction or scrapbook paper, stickers, or any other DIY, decorative materials. Note: You’ll have to remove the thumbtack legs in order to decorate the phone stand safely. You can either add the thumbtacks in after or remove them to decorate and pop them back in later.

Gift Boxes

empty toilet paper roll crafts
Source: iStock

One of our favorite ways to upcycle a paper towel (or toilet paper) tube is to make it into a gift box. To make this DIY gift box idea from The Sea Man Mom, you will need the following materials: 

  • TP or paper towel tubes
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon
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To make a paper towel or TP tube into a gift box, start by cutting the tissue paper; it should wrap around your tube at least three times, with 1-inch extra material hanging off each side. Use a glue stick to add adhesive to the wrong side of the tissue paper, then wrap the tissue paper around the roll as many times as it will allow, taking care to make sure the paper is face-up.

Tuck in and glue the excess tissue paper into the tube on both sides. Now, you have to make the gift box shape. Using your fingers, press one end of the roll, folding it in toward the center. Make sure the crease is clear to highlight the shape of the gift box. Now, before you do the other side, place your tiny gift inside the tube. Once it’s inside, you can use your finger to press the other end of the roll, folding it into the middle. Cut your ribbon so that it wraps around the tube three times, then decorate the gift box in any other way you see fit!

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Paper Towel Flowers

water color flowers paper towel
Source: iStock

This paper towel flower DIY is a fun one because it’s not all the time that we find a craft for the actual paper towels. Most of the time, people have ideas for repurposing the tubes, but the actual towels themselves make some really beautiful flower petals — especially when you add watercolor paints in the mix!

To make this DIY paper towel flower from CBC, you will need the following materials: 

  • Paper towel
  • Watercolor paints
  • Medicine dropper
  • Glue stick
  • Green straws or pipe cleaners
  • Tape
  • Ice cube tray
  • Baking sheet
  • Cookie cooling rack
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To make paper towel flowers, pour at least three different colors of watercolors in three separate parts of the ice cube tray. Using an eyedropper, drop little droplets of the watercolor onto a piece of paper towel. It should be saturated in watercolors by the end. Next, put it on a cookie sheet pan and let it dry on the rack.

When the whole paper towel is dry, cut it into two long strips. Use a glue stick to add adhesive to one long side of each colored paper towel. Fold each one over to make a small crease, making sure it adheres. To make the texture of the flower, crumble up the towel. Now, add your flower’s stem. You can use either a green straw or pipe cleaner for the stem. Lay it across one end of the strips, then roll and twist the straw so that the end of the paper towel ends up underneath it. Keep twisting the straw, pinching the bottom to keep it in place while you twist. Wind the paper towel around the straw, adjusting as you roll. After finishing rolling up the first strip, add the second, twisting it into the flower, too. Adhere the rose together with a piece of tape so that the stem and flower don’t get disconnected.

These watercolor flowers are also a great gift for Mother’s Day! Make a few of them and add them together to make a Mother’s Day bouquet!

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They may not be practical, but DIY binoculars sure can be an imaginative way to keep your child busy. (At least for a while — anything makes a difference!) Whether your little one “uses” them to watch the birds out in the yard or as a prop for imaginative play, they are sure to treasure these do-it-yourself binoculars, especially because they helped make them.

To make these DIY binoculars for kids, adapted from Red Ted Art, you will need the following materials:

  • Paper towel roll (cut in half)
  • Paint or paper (for decorating)
  • Glue
  • Ribbon

You will also need any other materials with which you’d like to decorate the DIY binoculars. To start, cut your paper towel tube in half. You can use both halves (or if you’re using a toilet paper roll, you’ll need two of those) to make the binoculars.

The best part of this DIY is that you start with the decorating. Kids will love this part! Use paint or glue on paper to decorate the binoculars. Don’t worry about stickers and designs and other stuff — that will come later. If you’re painting, let the binoculars dry. If you’ve decorated the binoculars by gluing on construction or scrapbook paper, you can move onto the next step.

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binocular paper towel craft
Source: iStock

The ribbon will be the binocular holder so your child can hold them or wear them (loosely) around their neck. Glue both ends of the ribbon to the top outside of the tubes. You can hide the spot where you glued the ribbon by painting over it again or adding a strip of paper to the end part of the tubes.

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Next, glue the two tubes together long ways. It should start to look like a pair of binoculars now! All that’s left to do is add the decorations and designs you want and then let it dry. These binoculars should be ready for backyard bird watching (or whatever else it is that kids do in quarantine) after a few hours of drying.

The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org

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