At home with preschool-aged children? Me too. Need some crafty, inexpensive ideas to keep them busy and engaged but can’t browse the aisles of JoAnn’s anymore? [wipe tear] Yup. Looking for an easy way to target some speech and language skills at the same time? I’ve got you. But bear with me.

So, you’ve probably noticed your recycling bin getting fuller faster with the drastic increase of time spent at home. Let’s talk about those toilet paper rolls. Deep breaths. I know, those words can muster up some anxiety these days. Just grab ‘em and think happy thoughts. And check out the links below, as we are not recreating the wheel here. After all, we’re all in this together.

Binoculars 

An oldie but goodie. I feel like childhood isn’t complete without toilet paper roll binoculars.

Materials:
2 toilet paper rolls
Length of string (or ribbon, yarn, shoelace)
Stapler
Tape
Decorative accents (stickers, paint, washi tape, glitter, markers, tin foil)

Communication Targets:
Use the binoculars to work on describing words and colors. “Let’s find something soft/hard/rough/smooth/fuzzy/long/short/big/small in the backyard,” or “Let’s find all the blue things in the room.”  

Working on early literacy skills? “Let’s find ten things that start with the letter B…bug, banana, brother, ball, bath, button, basket, bike!”  

Wanting to tackle spatial concepts? Read (or listen to) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt then go on your own hunt around the house with the binoculars to find your child’s bear or favorite stuffed animal. “Is he UNDER the bed? Is he IN the fridge? Is he BEHIND the couch?”

Articulation goals? Have your child use their binoculars to find objects around the house or yard with their target sound in them (e.g. “K” sound: car, marker, sock; “F” sound: food, coffee pot, leaf; s-blends: stairs, spoon, something smelly).

Bonus Ideas:
As you can see in the photo, we made ours pretty simple this time, but if you’re feeling extra creative you can add glitter, stickers, washi tape, etc. We printed off this free, awesome outdoor scavenger hunt from Teachers Pay Teachers and took it on our afternoon walk with our binoculars. The packet has twenty different scavenger hunts, including an indoor one, a from-your-window one, a gratitude one, and an outdoor sounds one. So fun! Also, here are a couple of other cute binocular ideas: Bird Finder Binoculars, Cloud Observation Binoculars

Fire-Breathing Dragon

In addition to a toy for your kids, this can also help you with those deep breaths I recommended above.

Materials: 

Toilet paper roll
Construction paper (or paint)
4 pom-poms (or cotton balls, marshmallows)
2 googly eyes (or buttons, beads, or draw them on)
Tissue paper (or regular tissues, ribbons)
Glue

Communication Targets:
Teach action words while also incorporating some movement into your day. “Does your dragon fly?” “Does she swim?” “Does she crawl?” “Does she spin?” Act it out with your child while highlighting the action words. Or play Simon Says with your dragons to work on receptive language: “Simon says sleep! Simon says jump!”

Working on “am/is/are + -ing” forms? While acting like dragons, model simple phrases: “I am flying!” “You are chasing me!” “We are breathing fire!”    

Bonus Ideas: We did this craft on a Taco Tuesday at our house and read one of our faves, Dragons Love Tacos, to make a whole theme of it. There are so many ways to target learning and language in book-reading and mealtime! (Do I smell tacos, or is that another blog post…?)

Firefly 

The light feature makes this one extra exciting for little ones. 

Materials:
Toilet paper roll
Scissors
Pipe cleaners
Glue (or tape)
Construction paper (or paint)
Printer paper (or wax or parchment paper for the glowing tummy part)
Googly eyes (or buttons, beads, or draw them on)
Battery operated tea light (or small glow stick) 

Communication Targets:
Trying to promote initiation or requesting?  Turn the firefly’s light off and see if your child communicates with a gesture, eye gaze, sign, word, etc. that they want it back on. Put the firefly on your head and have it fall into your hands with “1, 2, [wait]…3!” or “Ready, set, [wait]…go!” and, again, see if your child communicates with a gesture or word what they want the firefly to do.

Thinking about wh-questions? Try asking who, what, and where questions while making your firefly: “Where does the head go?”  “Who will draw the face?”  “What do we need for the wings?”

Working on emotional vocabulary? Make different faces for your firefly (sad, happy, mad). Go a step further and discuss why the firefly feels that way or an idea to help it manage that emotion (e.g. get a hug, take a break, take a deep breath).  

Bonus Ideas:
Use a blanket to make a “tent” and have bedtime story under the blanket with your glowing firefly to create a camping feel.    

We’ve done all of these T.P. crafts at my house over the last several weeks in quarantine. I think the binoculars were the biggest hit, and we definitely got the most mileage out of them. We just used what we had on hand for the projects, so we modified some of the instructions linked above.  

Crafts are great for targeting sequencing words (first, next, then, last), following directions, turn-taking, and so many other areas. You probably noticed the speech and language targets I’ve mentioned in this post are for a variety of goals and communication levels, and they are not exhaustive by any means. Just a few ideas to help you get started. That said, simply playing and crafting with your children is teaching them a tremendous amount. You’re doing great!

If you’re feeling inspired, other ideas for toilet paper rolls are seed starters, bird feeders, and rocket ships! Christina (our fantastic occupational therapist) and I have made these love bugs for a Valentine’s-themed Parents’ Night Out before, and the kids loved them!  What’s your favorite recycling bin craft?