Chinese Learning Activities with Cardboard Rolls

Fun Reading Games with Cardboard Rolls

Everybody has cardboard rolls, but most of us don’t have much time. The good news is that Chinese learning activities can be set up quickly with free, recycled paper tubes!

As always, you can apply these ideas to any language. Most activity examples on my website are in Chinese because it’s a minority language for my family.

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Using cardboard rolls for language learning games

Although English is their primary language, I hope they can speak Chinese, their heritage language.

Since the Chinese language is not mandatory in our town, I try to make their Chinese learning experience unique and memorable.

I also use activities to help them learn to read Chinese characters while having fun!

Over the past few years, I’ve used cardboard rolls to make quick learning games while learning Chinese with my children.

If you haven’t already, start saving up your cardboard tubes (纸板管 / 紙板管 / zhǐbǎn guǎn) or toilet paper rolls (卫生纸筒 / 衛生紙筒 / wèishēngzhǐ tǒng)!

These activities are great for kids between ages 4 to 8 years and include:

  1. Speaking activities with cardboard rolls
  2. Chinese numbers, shapes, and color activities
  3. Chinese reading games with cardboard rolls
  4. Crafts and other learning activities with cardboard rolls

1. Speaking activities with cardboard rolls

DIY Binoculars for playing I Spy in Chinese

“I Spy” with cardboard binoculars

I Spy” can be played at home, as a car game, or at the park!

Kids can make their own 望远镜 / 望遠鏡 (wàngyuǎnjìng / binoculars) with cardboard rolls.

In Mandarin Chinese, I Spy can be translated in a few ways:

  • 我用眼睛偷瞄 (Wǒ yòng yǎnjīng tōu miáo / I use my eye to peek)
  • 我用我的小眼睛看到一样_色的东西 / 我用我的小眼睛看到一樣_色的東西 (Wǒ yòng wǒ de xiǎo yǎnjīng kàn dào yīyàng___sè de dōngxī / I used my little eye to see a ___-colored thing)
  • 猜,猜,猜猜看! 我看到___的东西 / 猜,猜,猜猜看! 我看到_的東西 (Cāi, cāi, cāi cāi kàn! Wǒ kàn dào___de dōngxī / Guess, guess, guess, guess if you can! I see a ___ thing).

Whoever has the cardboard roll has to sing!

We made up this silly game where my kids and I pass a cardboard roll to each other.

The person holding the cardboard roll has to sing a (Chinese) song until the roll is passed to the next person!

DIY marble run pom pom ramp with cardboard rolls

Cardboard pom pom ramp races

Have fun talking about 毛绒球 / 毛絨球 (máo róng qiú / pom poms) and watching them roll and bounce down a DIY 坡道 (pō dào / ramp)!

Create big signs for 起点 / 起點 (qǐdiǎn / start) and 终点 / 終點 (zhōngdiǎn / end) for exposure to the written words.

Cardboard pom pom ramp maze races

You can tape it to the wall with painter’s tape or make a smaller version with a box lid!

2. Chinese numbers, colors, shapes

Different ways to make the Montessori Spindle Box

Montessori spindle box (蒙特梭利纺锤棒箱 / 蒙特梭利紡錘棒箱)

The Montessori spindle box introduces the concept of zero. It also teaches the relationship between quantity and number symbols and number sequence.

DIY details and teaching tips for the Montessori spindle box are here!

DIY Cardboard roll number stamps

DIY Cardboard roll number stamps

You can add foam or dried glue to cardboard rolls and turn them into stamps!

For the number template, read more about the Foam Number Paint & Stamp activity!

Number color patterns with cardboard rolls

Number color patterns with cardboard rolls

Cut up paper rolls and add colors with paint sticks! Have fun creating number and color patterns with cardboard rolls!

Color matching cardboard rolls and craft sticks

Color-matching cardboard rolls and craft sticks

Match colored crafts with colored cardboard rolls!

For exposure to written language, write color names on wooden sticks with a black marker!

Trilingual shape stamping with cardboard rolls! English, Chinese, Korean

Shape stamping with cardboard rolls

My daughter enjoyed this shape recognition and reading activity a few years ago!

Read Trilingual Shape Stamping! for tips on how to adapt this activity for different levels!

3. Chinese reading games made from cardboard rolls

Sun and moon stamping with cardboard rolls

Sun and moon stamping with cardboard rolls

Learn more about sun and moon stamping and Chinese vocabulary!

DIY Projector shadow show with recyclable cardboard rolls

DIY Word Projector

This incredibly cool reading activity involves science. My kids love experimenting with making the words larger and smaller.

Learn how to make cardboard roll projectors without wasting materials here!

DIY Kids bowling with cardboard rolls
Each side of the heart has simplified and traditional Chinese characters, such as 黄/黃 (huáng / yellow). Here, all of the simplified characters are facing forward except for yellow.

Cardboard tube bowling

Okay, according to my son, this is actually “golf bowling!”

We set up 6 “bowling pins” and put Chinese word cards in slits at the top of the cardboard rolls!

I included both scripts on each side of the heart for Chinese words with simplified and traditional Chinese characters, such as 黄/黃 (huáng / yellow).

DIY golf course - fun and active reading practice for kids

DIY Golf Game

I taught my son the first 2 Chinese characters in Sagebooks through this golf game!

Here are 3 fun ways to teach Chinese characters 高山 with DIY golf and free printable mountains!

Catapult cardboard roll Chinese reading game!

DIY Catapult reading game

If you have too many toilet paper tubes, cut them into thirds and make this interactive reading game!

Read DIY Catapult Sight Word Reading Game for details about how to make a catapult and set up this game!

The kids had SO much fun trying to launch pom poms into the Chinese word spots!

Chinese radicals cardboard spinning wheel

Chinese radicals spinning wheel

With toilet paper rolls, my daughter and I made spinning Chinese radical wheels! This clever idea was inspired by a mom, Cathy!

Cardboard roll Chinese word puzzle

Chinese characters word puzzle

Cardboard rolls are also convenient for saving paper and making a puzzle.

You can write words and cut them up to make a quick puzzle! (Typically, I use cardboard from a cereal box since it’s easier to write on a flat surface.)

But you can also use cardboard rolls to make a Chinese radical puzzle, similar to the spinning activity in number 4!

Bilingual memory word matching game with cardboard rolls

Bilingual memory word matching

Earlier, we shared these cardboard rolls that were cut in half length-wise. They have been repurposed many times for quick little activities!

The above version shows a memory-matching game with Chinese and Korean colors!

You can write different words that your child is learning and skip the painting to save time.

Cardboard Christmas tree word matching with toilet paper rolls

Cardboard tree word matching

We’ve also used cardboard rolls to match the tree top to the tree stump bases!

See Paper Roll Christmas Trees Word-Matching Game (Multilingual) for translations of the Christmas words!

You can also review nature words!

Dot sticker Chinese word matching on cardboard rolls

Dot sticker word matching

You can grab and keep this easy activity in your purse!

Write a few Chinese characters on the toilet paper roll and dot stickers, and voila, an easy matching game!

Related: 30 Chinese Dot Sticker Learning Activities for Kids (Free Printables)

4. Other Chinese crafts and activities with toilet paper rolls

DIY Miniature cardboard playground

Cardboard miniature playground

My daughter and I had a great time making this mini cardboard playground together!

To normalize Chinese words, my daughter and I labeled the playground with Chinese characters.

Learn more about our DIY cardboard playground and Chinese translations here.

Cardboard Chinese market - DIY pretend play for kids
Cardboard Chinese market

Chinese market with toilet paper roll roof tiles

We built our own Chinese market with cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls to learn more about Chinese culture!

Read DIY Cardboard Chinese Lunar New Year Market for Kids for the details and printable Chinese decorations!

Earth Day sorting activity: trash, recycling, green waste with household items

Earth Day sorting activity: trash, recycling, green waste

This sorting activity teaches kids how to discard trash and recycle appropriately.

Click here to learn more about this Earth Day Recycling Activity and relevant bilingual translations!

Cardboard roll counting octopus craft

Cardboard roll counting octopus craft

My daughter made this craft a few years ago when we learned the three ways to say octopus in Chinese!

Read Cardboard Roll Octopus: A Chinese Counting Activity for more details!

Cardboard roll train with bottle cap wheels

Cardboard roll car and train

Since my son is obsessed with cars and we collect bottle caps, we often make cars and trains with cardboard rolls!

This is a simple craft that only requires glue! Paint and other designs are optional!

Label the cardboard tube car or train with Chinese characters to encourage a print-rich environment.

Have you tried any of these cardboard roll activities with your kids?

If you try any of these activities, please let us know in the comments below!

We’d love to hear about your learning experience and see how everything turned out! 😀


  1. Very inspiring ideas! I definitely need these games for my kids. Great job, Betty!

    1. Thank you for the kind note! Hope your kids can have fun with these games!

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