This is a great Play Invitation that combines math and the creation of three-dimensional art.

Cardboard tubes are an inexpensive material that can bring a lot of fun and a new way to explore construction techniques.

With this Play Invitation, children can explore math, science and art concepts such as balance, structure, composition, and height – while developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, organization and planning skills.

Child painting paper tubes built up like a sculpture

What Could Lead Us to This Play Invitation

  • Children are excited about building vertical structures;
  • Children have been exploring techniques to attach materials and toys in their play.

Materials Needed

  • Tempera paints
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Scissors
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Glue (optional)

Setting up This Play Invitation

  1. Pre-cut the cardboard tubes using a scissor. Cut four slits along the top and bottom of each tube, at equal distances from each other.
  2. Place the tubes on a table next to the tempera paints and brushes.

    Tip: Show the children how cutting slits into the tubes allow you to attach them together. Have enough tubes ready to use so each child can challenge themselves to create interesting constructions.

How to Create the Construction

  1. Invite children to create their structure using the slits to connect the tubes.
Child painting paper tubes built up like a sculpture

2. Let the children paint their structures.

Child painting paper tubes built up like a sculpture

Optional Next Step: Glue the pieces in place. Children can also keep adding other items to their sculptures: pompoms, tissue paper, cardboard pieces, colored papers, magazine cutouts, etc.

How to Nurture the Natural Unfolding of the Child’s Identity During This Play Invitation

  • Children have the right to repeatedly practice skills and abilities. Adults should offer them consistent opportunities for repetition, so they can transfer their thinking processes and skills across different contexts.
  • Children have the right to healthy emotional development. Adults can support children’s sense of empowerment, autonomy, and self-esteem by following their lead while they are engaged and exploring materials creatively.

The Academic Learning Opportunities

  • MATH: Growing awareness of pattern and structure, visual and tactile understanding of form.
  • LANGUAGE: New vocabulary, using language to share ideas.
  • PHYSICAL: Fine motor skills and visual-spatial relationships.
  • SCIENCE: Concepts of prediction, hypothesis testing, and experimenting with balance.
  • ART: Expression of ideas through structures – exploring lines, shapes, variety, complexity, repetition, and visual balance.


  • Offer markers and paper, and invite children to draw the structures they’ve created. You can encourage them to look up from the bottom, down from the top, and from each side, to see how the structure looks from different perspectives, then let them choose the perspective they like best for their drawing.

Book Recommendation

This book celebrates self-expression through the story of an enthusiastic kid and his love for building structures using unusual materials.