These Cardboard Toilet Paper Tube Crafts Are Just the Cutest (and Great for Earth Day!)
Cardboard tubes — the kind leftover from toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, gift wrap, plastic wrap, and foil — are the first thing I pluck from the recycling bin. Keep a stash and you will be ready to craft animals, toys, party or holiday decorations … and anything you can think of!
During the lockdown in 2020, I shared a bunch of my toilet tube crafts on Instagram and had an especially positive response from around the world! I realized I am not the only fan of this seemingly humble item! With that in mind, I put together a bunch of tube-y craft ideas into an e-book, my third craft book, Toilet Tube Treasury, a love letter to my craft material.
As a craft editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine for nineteen years, my colleagues and I developed craft stories that celebrated everyday objects like popsicle sticks, tin cans, and cardboard boxes. Dreaming up uses for items otherwise destined for a landfill became my favorite challenge. They’re not only free and plentiful, but transforming them helps us retain the childlike skill to identify the potential in things; it’s the ability to see the world differently, not to look at a toilet tube as trash but as a cat waiting to be snipped out, a cardboard box meant to be a dollhouse, milk cartons to be made into a village of pitched-roof houses, and doilies to be turned into tiaras. Collect materials like tubes, egg cartons, clean milk containers, and cardboard boxes in a basket or bin and you’ll always be ready to go when inspiration strikes!
Encouraging kids to transform open-ended materials this way can sharpen their creative thinking and problem-solving skills, and boost independence and confidence. Toilet (and paper towel) tubes are 3-D blank canvases, right in your recycle bin. I hope you and your kids will have as much fun crafting with them as I do!
You can purchase Toilet Tube Treasury as a downloadable PDF with printable templates here in my shop.
NOTE: In honor of my favorite recycled material and the trees that provide them, 5% of proceeds from sales will be donated to Eden Reforestation Projects to produce, plant, and protect tens of millions of trees every month while creating jobs in communities most affected by climate change.
How to Make a Toilet Paper Tube Cat
Use your own cat — or your imagination — as inspiration for painting this cardboard kitty! The template makes it easy but feel free to design your own shape.
- Free, printable cat template
- Paper towel tube
- Gesso (primer, optional)
- Trim out the template and wrap it around the tube. Cut out the cat shape and fold the head up and the legs down.
- Paint your cat with a coat of gesso (optional, but it will help your paint color look much brighter) and after that dries, paint a color, a face, and some spots, if you like!
How to Make a Toilet Paper Tube ‘Tube Town’
Create a tiny town for your race cars, train set, or figurines! Grownups can help with using a craft knife to cut windows.
- Toilet or paper towel tubes
- Scrap cardboard (like from a cereal box)
- Detail scissors and a craft knife
- Hot glue or white glue
- Adhesive dots
- Paint, gesso (optional), and paintbrush
- Straws (optional, for chimneys)
- Small balloons (5″ or water balloons)
- Pinch each side of the very top of a tube to divide it in half and determine the front and back. Make pencil marks at the top center of the front and back. Use these marks as a guide for drawing on matching front and back shapes whether it’s a pointy, peaked house or a stepped skyscraper. Cut the housetop. (Note: the peaked side of the house can be the front or the side.)
- Sketch on your windows and door. Use the craft knife to make a starter hole and use that or detail scissors to cut them out.
- If you’d like a double-back house, like the yellow one, glue two matching houses together and then glue a shorter one in front.
- Paint your house with a coat of gesso (optional, but it will help your paint color look much brighter). Allow the gesso to dry and paint it a color.
- To make a roof, fold a piece of scrap paper in half and place it over the house. Cut it down to a roof size. Use that paper as a template to cut a cardboard roof. Glue it onto the top of the building.
- To make a chimney, cut a small piece off of a straw at an angle to glue to the roof.
- To make a tree, cut a toilet tube to your desired tree trunk height. Inflate a water balloon to a size that will look good with your trunk. Put some adhesive dots on the inside top of the tube. Squeeze the balloon and nudge it into the “trunk.” When you release it inside, it should adhere to the dots.