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12 Paper Tearing Activity Ideas to Build Fine Motor Skills

Tearing is a great workout for little fingers and one that is important for building fine motor skills in early childhood. 

Here are some awesome paper tearing activity ideas that are simple and require little to no preparation.

While it may start with your toddler gleefully ripping through your toilet rolls and tearing out pages of their books (much to your horror), it should actually be encouraged.

Little children should be practising the skill of tearing right up through preschool and beyond. It takes a lot of coordination to learn how to hold a paper between the fingers and pull in opposite directions in order to tear it.

Tearing as an activity is beneficial in many ways:

All your child needs in order to learn how to tear properly is lots of opportunity to practise.

You do not necessarily need to make fancy paper tearing art. It’s just as important to let your child experience and freely tear paper without prescribing a model to follow.

Remember, the learning is in the process, not the outcome.

All you need for these activities is coloured paper and other kinds of collage materials, some liquid glue or a glue stick, and possibly a pair of scissors.

Adapt these paper tearing and pasting activities to your kindergartener, toddler or preschooler’s ability level.

12 easy paper tearing activities pinterest image

1. Free Collage

Before attempting any adult-led ideas, let your child tear paper freely. Provide small pieces of different coloured papers, glue and a large sheet of paper to stick them to.

Leave your child to experiment independently and develop their own creation.

2. Colour Patterns

Show your child how to follow a simple pattern (and introduce an early maths concept at the same time) by making a simple 2-colour pattern of torn strips of paper.

Tear an A4 paper in half first (and in half again for younger children) and show your child how to control the paper and tear strips of it.

pink and blue teared pieces of paper

3. Texture Collage

For this tear and paste activity, make a texture collage with different materials and types of paper. 

Teach your child to tear the materials into small pieces and then arrange them any way they like onto the paper. 

Provide a small tub with various papers and materials for your child to choose from.

Here are some different types:

  • Tin foil
  • Regular computer paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Magazine paper
  • Baking paper
  • Sticky paper (tape or stickers)
  • Wrapping paper

4. Tissue Paper Fun

Use a piece of tin foil as the base of the picture. Drop some baby oil onto the foil and get your child to spread it with a paintbrush.

Give your child tissue paper in various colours and invite her to tear pieces and see what happens to them when they land on the oil. They stick but can easily be moved or removed. 

Make a fun, oily paper collage. [Kuffner: 2008]

5. Garden Scene

Ask your child to draw the branches of a big tree standing in a garden. Create the garden scene by tearing small pieces of coloured paper to make leaves, grass, clouds or any other elements in the garden scene.

Paste the leaves onto the branches of the tree and then fill in the rest of the scene.

This activity will require much concentration and will be a good exercise in fine motor control.

child tearing paper to make a picture

6. Snow Picture

As a variation to the activity above, make a picture of a snowman and ask your child to tear snowflakes out of white paper or tissue paper and paste them falling from the clouds.

7. Pass the Parcel

Ripping off wrapping paper is one of the most fun ways to practise tearing. In the classic party game pass the parcel, a parcel is passed round the circle and when the music stops, the person who is holding the parcel may remove one layer of wrapping paper.

You can play this in a classroom or pass a parcel back and forth with your child. Play a game of ‘guess which one of your toys I wrapped in the paper’ to encourage tearing off the layers.

P.S. Gift bags might be the new trend but they take all the joy out of tearing open a present. Why not wrap your child’s gifts this year and add on an extra layer of paper just for fun!

child tearing wrapping paper on a box

8. Tearing Tape

Sticky tape or masking tape is a favourite with the toddlers and you don’t need to give much guidance here.

Simply give your child a roll of tape (or several coloured rolls) and let him have fun, either sticking pieces of tape to a paper or allowing him freedom to tape your walls, furniture, etc.

9. Leaf Tearing

Collect fallen leaves from the garden or park and tear them into tiny little pieces.

These can be used to make an autumn/fall collage.

Younger toddlers will love carrying around a small box with their leaf tearings. Search for flowers and other natural items at the same time.

10. Home-Made Gift Paper

Your family will love receiving gifts wrapped in home-made wrapping paper. 

The best thing to use to make the collaged paper is actually wrapping paper, as it comes in fun colours and decorations. As in the picture below, paste tearings of pretty wrapping paper onto a base paper (black or any plain colour looks great).

Teach your child to paste the pieces of paper carefully, ensuring there are no ‘ears’ sticking up. 

artwork from teared pieces of paper

11. Paper Crumpling

While these are all ideas for learning to tear, there are also many benefits of doing paper crumpling activities.

Start with a simple activity such as tearing off big pieces of paper, crumpling them into a ball and aiming them into a laundry basket or other target. 

Later, try crumpling the paper with just one hand at a time. This is tougher than it sounds!

12. Paper Bag Faces

This idea also involves using crumpling as a technique. Tear up old magazines or newspapers and crumple the pieces into balls. Then, stuff them inside a brown paper bag until it is full.

Close the bag at the end with a rubber band and draw or paint a face on the front side. [Kuffner: 2008]

I hope you’ll enjoy trying these tearing activities with your kids at home or in class. Here are more pasting activities and some simple, process-oriented art activity ideas for preschoolers


Would you like a year of done-for-you, ten-minute activities to teach your 3-5-year-old through play? Get your copy of the Learning Through Play Activity Pack for only $27.

Activity Pack for preschoolers

Extra source: Kuffner, K. 2008. The Toddler’s Busy Book. Meadowbrook Press: Minnesota.

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