Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper

Today we have a tissue paper crumpling activity (or paper crumbling!) that builds many fine motor skills, including hand strength. In this easy tissue paper fine motor activity, we are working on pinching and crumbling paper is an excellent fine motor exercise for children.  It is an activity that works the small muscles of the hand and really strengthens the arches of the hands

Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.

There are many fine motor benefits of crumpling paper into small pieces!

Paper Crumpling

Paper crumpling (or paper crumbling) is a great way to play with paper that builds fine motor skills in the hands.

If a child has weak muscles in their hands and the arches are not defined, you may see them holding a pencil or small items between their thumb and the side of their index finger.  The arches of their hand may not be defined and nice and round.  You may also see them holding their hands close to their chest as they attempt to gain stabilization of their arms to do the small motor task.

To really work those muscles, you could have your child first tear the bits of tissue paper before they crumble them up.

Defined arches are very important in shoe tying, handwriting, and managing clothing like buttons and snaps.

You can see how to incorporate tearing paper into this activity using the video below. Towards the end of the video, you’ll see ways to build fine motor strength and finger dexterity using crumbled paper pieces. The tissue paper squares that we are using in our activity today can be used like shown in the video for more finger strengthening exercises.

Working on fine motor skill development through play supports functional tasks, plus it’s fun!

Paper Crumpling Activity

We came up with this tissue paper crumbling activity many years ago, and it still stands as a great way to work on skills:

We’ve talked about the benefits of tearing paper before, and this activity expands on the skills a bit, because after you tear the tissue paper, you can have your student crumble the paper and then push it into the mouth of a water bottle.

While this is a really simple fine motor activity, it’s great because you build so many skills, and kids typically enjoy this simple task.

Tissue Paper Crumbling Activity

For this activity, you really can use items you have on hand. We used empty plastic water bottles, and colorful tissue paper squares.

  1. Cut tissue paper into small squares.
  2. Remove labels from plastic water bottles.

To increase the fine motor work, you could have the student rip pieces of the tissue paper to really increase grip strength work.

Ask the student to take one piece of tissue paper, and crumble it up with their finger tips.

Then, they should push the crumpled tissue paper into the empty water bottle.

You can make this activity a game by asking them to roll a dice and place that many squares of tissue paper into the bottle. Or you could have them sort colors by filling each water bottle with a single color.


plastic water bottles full of crumbled tissue paper and tissue paper squares on a table
This was an easy and fun little activity to throw together.
We have a bunch of little tissue paper squares in our craft supplies.  Put them next to a couple of empty plastic bottles, and the kids know what to do!
Pushing the tissue paper into the spout of the water bottle is great for encouraging a tripod grasp (using the thumb, index, and middle finger).
Holding the bottle with the non-dominant hand allows the child to work on their bilateral hand coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated manner…kids need this when they begin shoe tying and managing the zipper on their coat).
When you ask kids to crumble paper using just the tips of their fingers, you really isolate thumb IP joint flexion as they bend the tips of the fingers. This is needed for dexterity and precision skills in functional tasks such as writing with a pencil.
collage of child placing crumpled tissue paper into an empty plastic bottle, child holding plastic water bottle full of crumbled tissue paper, and water bottle and tissue paper squares
…And everyone loved the cool crunchy sound the bottle made when you squashed it!
Child holding a plastic water bottle full of  colorful tissue paper


There are so many ways to build skills with this simple tissue paper crumpling activity!

More fine motor fun…

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

3 thoughts on “Fine Motor Play with Tissue Paper”

  1. That really is a cool activity. I like seeing the pretty colors in the bottles. I think kids would find it engaging and as you pointed out, it is an easy way for them to develop their motor skills. The plastic bottles are safe for them to work with and are not small enough to be a danger to kids of any age.

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Colorful tissue paper squares crumbled up and placed in two plastic water bottles. Text reads Crumbling paper activity and lists the fine motor benefits of crumbling paper.