Printing with Cardboard Shape Tubes

Make your own shape printers using folded cardboard tubes, for easy grip and playful maths learning for toddlers and preschoolers! The resulting art work also looks lovely when turned into wrapping paper, wall art or cut to make further collage pictures.

Cardboard tube shape printers for toddler art

This activity is part of our new Toddler Play series, which celebrates simple and engaging play-times for 18 months to 3+ year olds. For this activity we combined art, motor skills and learning shapes with these super-easy DIY shape printers made from cardboard tubes!

We first made shaped tubes for one of our  Playful Maths activity we did where we used shape binoculars to go on a shape hunt around the house! We later used them to print with but didn’t have all of the shapes and it was time to make some more so little Bean could enjoy this too.

DIY shape stampers from cardboard tubes


I simply cut down a wrapping paper cardboard tube into similar length portions and then carefully bent and folded each one to represent 6 different shapes; circle, square, rectangle, triangle , heart and star. The star was quite tricky and lost its shape the fastest, but they still managed to create some lovely prints with it first.Toddler art printing with shape tubes

Then we added 6 different colours of paint to a large, silicone baking sheet (one of my favourite ways to present little ones with paint as it’s so easy to clean afterwards!) and dipped one shape into each colour. I laid out large pieces of A3 white paper and let them experiment with the prints that they could create. Long tubes like this make great print-making devices as they are easy  for little hands to grip and don’t slide around in the paint like flat printing materials are prone to do (which cause lots of frustration.)

Toddler shape printing activity

It’s good for simple problem solving skills too, such as “which part of this needs to be pressed onto the paper to make the shape appear?” , “what if I push it on sideways, what will happen?” , “can I do two at once? yes!”

Printing with two hands simultaneously is great for cross-lateral connections, a very important  part of development in early childhood.

Printing with cardboard shape tubes

Both Pop and Bean loved this simple activity and I loved watching how differently they approached it. Bean was experimental and loved layering and overlapping the shapes that she made, eventually fetching herself a paintbrush and painting inside some shapes and over the paper too. Pop meticulously covered the whole paper, making sure to use each shape and trying not to let any overlap. She named the shapes as she printed them and we talked abut the ones she didn’t know the names of and what they all looked like, using simple descriptive language e.g. round, straight, corners and edges. Bean pointed at all the stars and sang Twinkle Twinkle, her favourite song!

A series of toddler play activities from The Imagination Tree

To follow along our Toddler Play series, click the image and see our other ideas.

See a huge range of print-making activities in our archives

Cakie: 5.4

Pop: 3.10

Bean: 1.11

What they are learning as they play:

Maths: naming 2D shapes, talking about the basic properties of shapes e.g. round/ pointy/ straight edges etc, counting

Physical: gross motor co-ordination, rotating objects, pressing and printing, fine motor control

Creativity: naming colours, making patterns; overlapping shapes; exploring paint with hands, brushes and print-making materials


  1. says

    What a great idea! My Mr Frog is a bit older but I’m sure he will have a lot of fun with it. I will collect cardboard tubes from today :)

  2. Kelly says

    This afternoon me and my son were using a small heart cookie cutter to make Valentines wrap but as always you have improved and extended an already enjoyable activity – thankyou!!

  3. Ranjini Mukherjee says

    What a fantastic idea ! Will have to do this in class with the little ones . Thanks!!

  4. Monica says

    I saw on another site to put a piece of scotch tape around the shape after you formed it to help keep its shape. Hope that tip makes sense! :) love this activity

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