Tearing paper may seem destructive, but a consciously created tearing paper activity is actually perfect for toddlers. Tearing paper has many developmental benefits. Toddlers seeking out the “wrong” things to tear need an appropriate way to practice skills. I’m sharing 25 learning activities focused on tearing paper in this blog post.
Benefits of tearing paper
Tearing paper is good for toddlers for many reasons. Tearing paper naturally satisfies a toddler’s curiosity. It’s an excellent way for them to explore their senses and learn about texture. The feeling of paper tearing, its sound, and the opportunity to make messes all make these activities appealing for toddlers.
Tearing paper is often an early step in learning to use scissors. It helps young children develop the hand muscles and control needed for cutting. Plus, it’s a great interactive learning idea that extends children’s attention.
Tearing paper activities are also a great way to recycle used paper instead of just throwing it away.
Tearing paper develops skills in the following areas:
- fine motor
- sensory stimulation:
How to set up tearing paper activity
Paper is both a loose parts material and also a perfect process-art material.
Consider paper as a loose parts object. Set it out as an invitation for toddlers to explore. You should clear space on a low table or the floor. Then set out materials in a visually-appealing way that is uncluttered. Your toddler will want to see everything there is to explore.
Some children will need you to model some ways to rip paper or use props.
Most paper tearing activities are open-ended. You can guide your toddler to make sure they are using materials safely, but otherwise, let them investigate and play how they want to.
Ways to Use Torn Paper:
- scooping + pouring
- prop in imaginative play
Your toddler may only want to rip and crumble paper. That’s totally great! This list includes ideas for basic paper ripping and ideas for more complex tearing paper play.
Alright, let’s move on to why you came here. Time to explore the list of 25+ tearing paper activities.
Shredded Paper Sensory Bin Activities
Shredded Paper Ideas for Sensory Bins
A sensory bin is an open-ended way for your toddler to explore tearing paper. Offer a variety of paper materials for your toddler to tear, including different colors, textures, and sizes.
Some types of paper or paper shreds you can put in the bin include:
Types of Paper
- Shredded crinkle paper strips
- Colorful tissue paper
- Wrapping paper
- Construction paper
- Paper towel
- Post It notes
- Greeting cards
- Paint samples
- Crepe paper streamers
- Packing paper
Types of Tears
- Strips of ripped paper
- Chunks of ripped paper
- Sheets of paper to tear
- Crumbled paper balls
Ripping Paper Challenge
Offer different types of paper for your toddler to rip. Talk about how it feels to tear tissue paper versus construction paper versus cardstock versus cardboard.
Set out an empty baby wipes container, tissue box, or cut a slit in the lid of an oatmeal container. Toddlers will rip paper and stuff the pieces into the container through the opening. This activity challenges toddlers’ fine motor skills while also letting them investigate sizes.
Scoop + Pour
A basic sensory bin idea is scooping and pouring with measuring cups, large spoons, or shovels. Still, different types and sizes of paper will test a toddler’s hand coordination.
And let’s be honest, paper is much easier to clean up than sand or sudsy water.
Tongs + Cups
Ripped paper, especially shredded crinkle strips, will be easier to pick up and move with tongs. Your toddler can explore picking up the pieces and stuffing them into cups using the tongs.
Extend this activity by pretending the paper shreds are pasta. You can even add crumbled paper (veggie) meatballs to the sensory bin.
Another option is to using this activity to introduce chopsticks to your toddler. You can buy training chopsticks or DIY with a rubber band and paper.
Plastic Containers + Lids
Toddlers can use shredded paper to fill empty plastic food containers. This activity lets them explore filling, dumping, and weight. They also get to practice sealing and removing lids.
Themed Sensory Bins Using Shredded Paper
Now that you have some ideas for adding torn paper to sensory bins, here are some imagination-inspiring themes:
- Construction vehicles + shredded paper
- Toy birds + twigs + brown paper strips
- Battery-powered tea lights + tissue paper
- Silicone cupcake liners + crumbled paper balls
- Tissue paper + crinkle paper + tiny gift bags
- Plastic eggs + dinosaur toys + paper shreds
- White paper shreds + arctic animal toys
- Bug toys + shredded paper + magnifying glasses
Tearing Paper Art Activities
Bottle + Paper Stuffing
This paper-stuffing activity involves dropping or stuffing torn pieces of paper into the neck of a bottle. Toddlers will have to use fine motor skills and problem-solving to fill the bottle up. The end result is a colorful sensory bottle.
Add items such as stones, beads, bells, or pipe cleaners to the bottle
Contact Paper Collage
Tearing paper to make a contact paper collage is one of my favorite toddler activities. It’s open-ended and process-oriented art, meaning you can visit this activity again and again.
Tape a printer paper-sized piece of clear contact paper to the table, sticky side up. Set out different types of paper on the table. Then toddlers can tear, place, and peel paper to create a textured collage.
When your toddler is done, simply use a second sheet of contact paper to seal the collage.
Tape the contact paper to the floor, table, wall, or even under the table.
This activity is similar to the contact paper collage but with glue instead. You can either use construction paper or cardboard.
Your toddler can tear, place, and glue different paper types to create a textured collage.
Water + Tissue Paper Dye
This activity is an engaging way to explore color mixing with torn paper. Your toddler can tear colored tissue paper or crepe paper. Then place the pieces on a sheet of white paper.
Offer your toddler a paintbrush and a container with a bit of water. Show your toddler how to drip or brush water on the tissue paper. The color from the tissue paper will start to bleed onto the white paper.
You can either remove the tissue paper now or let it dry first. Either way, in the end, you have a science experiment turned into a colorful piece of art.
Crumble Paper Sculptures
This imaginative play activity will help your toddler explore making 3D art. They can twist, crumble, rip, fold, pile, or shred paper into a creation.
- Model different ways to manipulate the paper.
- Use open-ended questions to learn about their design.
Tape + Paper Collage
After your toddler tears paper, they can use tape to create a collage. Using cardstock or a piece of cardboard as a base, show your toddler how they can tape their ripped paper pieces.
This process-art idea lets toddlers explore different paper textures and get familiar with using tape.
Other Tearing Paper Activities
Toddlers are just beginning to understand sorting and classifying. Different types of paper or colors of paper can become the sorting objects.
First, you can choose specific colors or types of paper to sort. Then tape a piece of each color/type to the bottom of a muffin tin. Toddlers can rip pages of paper and place pieces into the matching spots. You can also set out colored bowls for toddlers to sort matching colors into.
Remember, if your toddler is not interested in matching, just enjoy watching them investigate. They might not be ready for this skill yet, but open-ended play will prepare them.
Wet Paper Tearing
Tearing wet paper is an entirely different sensory experience.
For this activity, offer different types of paper to your toddler. They can wet the paper using a paintbrush, sponge, melting ice cubes, or eyedropper. Now they can explore shredding, poking, or crumbling the wet paper.
Foam Board Paper Peel
This idea is a classic recommendation for toddler teachers. Sometimes toddlers rip paper they are not supposed to because they enjoy the sensation of peeling.
For this activity, take a large piece of foam board and cover it with different kinds of paper. Tape the paper down with various types of tape such as masking tape, washi tape, or scotch tape. Layer different textures of tape and paper to make the activity more challenging or sensory-rich.
You can let your toddler explore the board by tearing up the paper and peeling back the tape. Once the board is empty, you can reuse the foam board again and again.
Pipe Cleaners + Strainer + Paper Holes
Puncturing holes is another way to explore tearing paper.
If your toddler is not familiar with threading pipe cleaners through the holes of a strainer/colander, you should introduce this activity first.
Once they have the concept down, you can use masking tape to tape pieces of paper to the inside of the strainer/colander. Now encourage your toddler to explore puncturing the paper as they push the pipe cleaner through the holes.
Fans + Paper Shreds
Remember that children’s game with the elephant trunk, butterflies, and nets? This is a quick DIY version that’s way cheaper and more adaptable.
First, set up a small fan or box fan on the floor. It would be best to take a few moments to talk about fan safety with your toddler.
Now your toddler can rip up pieces of paper and place them in front of the fan. Turn the fan on a low setting when your toddler is ready and watch the paper pieces scatter.
You and your toddler can investigate all the different ways to do this activity. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Different fan settings
- Dropping paper in front of the fan
- Different types or sizes of paper
- Crumbled paper versus strips of paper
Why do toddlers rip paper?
Toddlers are curious and sensory-seeking. Ripping paper is a way to explore objects, their properties, and how they work. Toddlers instinctually seek out activities to build their fine motor skills, and tearing paper happens to be a perfect outlet.
Toddler Tearing Tip
Keep one of these activities ready-to-go in a plastic shoe box. Gently redirect + remind that only ripping this paper is okay.
Remember, toddlers damage things to meet a need. They may need a new sensory experience or are trying to communicate frustration. When toddlers break or destroy items, they don’t realize that this damage is often permanent.
What to do when toddlers rip books
A toddler’s natural curiosity often leads to ripping books. You should teach early book lovers how to respect books, not damage them. Often toddlers develop a book-ripping habit that can be difficult to break. The activities on this list are the perfect redirection for an appropriate ways to tear.
Modeling and talking about caring for books also cuts down on book ripping. Make reading a relaxing, engaging time so your toddler has positive associations with books.
Rotate books often or check out new books from the library. Your toddler might simply be bored with the same books. Setting out just a few books at a time can also keep your toddler from being overwhelmed by too many book choices.
If you’re looking for more ideas for fine motor activities for your toddler, be sure to read about Playing with Ice and Loose Parts Material Guide. You’ll find a variety of ideas that will help your toddler develop their motor skills and creativity.