Toddler Time: Tearing Paper

After a recent conversation with my friend Jennie, a former Pre-K teacher who now has a son about the same age as Little Brother, I was motivated to start posting some toddler-friendly ideas…even if they aren’t all that “unique.” I’m planning to post a “Toddler Time” idea each week for the next several weeks in an effort to be intentional with Little Brother (and perhaps as an encouragement to you as well).

Today’s “Toddler Time” activity is letting your little one tear paper. Believe it or not, it’s a great activity to help develop the small muscles in the hands. At first your child will attempt to wrap his fist around two sides and pull in order to tear. This is completely normal. As he gets older, he’ll learn to use his thumb and forefinger in opposing directions. But he needs practice. Hence the reason for the activity.

I just used a weekly ad from Walgreens, but you could also use old magazines, newspapers, and scrap paper.

I chose a terrible time for this activity…Little Brother hadn’t taken his morning nap and was NOT cooperating.

But eventually after watching me (and Big Brother) tear the paper, he was curious. So he gave it a shot…

That was about it for Little Brother…he didn’t want much to do with tearing paper (this time). Big Brother, on the other hand, had a blast!


  1. I just love your blog; you have so many good ideas, especially the ones that teach about the Bible and Jesus, and the ones that are easy do-it-yourself ideas. My son is 10 1/2 mos, so I'm really excited that you are including more toddler stuff.

  2. As another idea, my little guy (16 months) absolutely LOVES to tear paper, especially napkins. If you have been wondering what to do with the extra napkins in your fast food bag, they are the perfect thinness to make it super fun. We usually start off with a large motor dance-off with "flags" to wave, which gets the napkins opened, then he proceeds to tear the napkins to shreds, all the while laughing. I save the scraps sometimes to add to the texture table (napkins plus packing peanuts equals crazy static-y science-y fun) Just another variation on the activity. I was a pre-K teacher before I got married, so I remember some stuff I did, but I would love more intentional play ideas for my toddler!

  3. I'm excited about the extra toddler ideas too–thanks! And thank you for the realness of your blog…I appreciated that you mentioned that Little Brother hadn't had a nap and wasn't cooperating. It's just nice to see real life represented on blogs…makes me feel better about my own not-so-great moments of the day anyway :)

  4. Much to my dismay, my daughter has been happily tearing up my parenting magazines for about 6 months now. And I don't think I ever go to read any of them :(

  5. I just love the stuff you post on your blog! I always save your emails so I can use the ideas with my daughter! Thanks for all the great info!

  6. Thanks so much for including more toddler ideas! And I LOVE that they are easy with little prep. It makes it simple to implement them in our day on the fly! Thank you, thank you!!!

  7. I am excited about more early toddler ideas. I have a ball playing with my 1 1/2 year old but it is hard to come up with intentional activities to do with her. All of my "school" ideas (besides reading, of course) are too old for her. I would have never thought to just let her tear up paper! Thanks for your ideas!!

  8. When I taught kindergarten we tore paper often. Sometimes I would fill the water table with scrap paper and scissors. Some of the little ones would have cut and tore all morning.

  9. Great idea for our precious wee one—AND her big brother. Thank you so much!

    P.S.—he’s ALSO precious….in spite of what he did to her this morning. ;-)

  10. My kids love tearing up paper. This is really fun in the fall when the leaves are falling outside but its cold and raining, we tear up old sales flyers and tossing them up in the air and pretend we’re throwing leaves, they love covering each other up or me with paper (leaves). Its a great fun activity and keeps them active for awhile. Then we use our fingers for rakes for clean up time.

  11. Hi, nice article. however, would tearing papers become a destructive habit and he/she starts to tear newspaper, books, etc which we had to constantly keep important doc out of reach from them?

    my baby boy 13 months likes to pull out tissue from the box, and he started tearing them up and make a mess.

    He seemed to relate the existence of tissue and tearing activity as one piece.
    Anyone here face this problem?

    how do we correct this behaviour? Do we introduce negative reinforcement?

    Thank you for sharing~

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