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7 Ways to Learn & Play with Straws

I love doing these “7 Ways to Play” posts, I think it’s great to really see how many different learning and play opportunities can be found in simple, everyday materials. Sensory activities for kids do not have to cost a fortune!

I was recently challenged to come up with 7 ways to play with drinking straws, and here’s what we came up with!

7 ways

Here are the seven ways we played with straws this week:

Bubble Painting

Make sure your child understands the difference between “suck” and “blow” before starting this activity, or you may have an Alfalfa singing at the talent show-type situation on your hands.

In a shallow bowl, mix 3 tablespoons water with 1 teaspoon dish soap and add either a dash or paint or a couple of drops of food colouring. Stick a straw in the mixture and get ready for some bubble art!

You can do this a couple of different ways — you can place the bowl on a piece of paper and allow the bubbles to cascade over onto the paper to make the art, or you can have your child blow bubbles and then place a sheet of paper overtop of the bowl to touch the bubbles. We also did a fun extension of this for our “b is for bubbles” exploration.

Straw Painting

Place random spurts of paint all over a sheet of paper and encourage your child to place their straw close to the paint and blow to send streams all around their paper for a cool effect!

This might be better for slightly older kids, as my three year olds had a hard time blowing hard enough to move the paint dramatically enough. (A more liquidy paint may have also helped with that — but it worked out as the kids ended up using their straws as “rollers” and created a new activity out of their frustration.)

Straw Pan Flute

Making a pan flute out of straws is a great way to combine math and music, as children have to practice the concept of longer and shorter and test their visual discrimination (similar to how they would work with the Montessori red rods).

And, is it just my kids or is tape one of the best art materials you can provide? Miss G was so excited to have a real purpose to use her tape! It’s also great to brainstorm with the kids and see what adhesive suggestions they come up with — it’s all about learning and experimenting.

For me, the best part about this activity is that the pan flute actually works! Holding the flute close to their lips and blowing just across the straws, you can hear  the tone difference from one straw to the next!

Straw Rocket

This is a fun science experiment for kids and a great way to introduce children to the concept of air pressure. Download my free printable straw rocket and follow the instructions to create a paper rocket that fits perfectly over a drinking straw, and then practice counting down from 10 to blow through the straw and blast off the rocket!

Forming Letters with Straws

This was an easy activity for letter recognition, and you could add pipe cleaners or string for forming rounded letters. You can also allow children to glue or tape their formed letters onto paper for a lasting reminder of their work, or you could use transparent straws to play on a homemade light table.

Pom Pom Race with Straws

In our 7 Ways to Play with Cotton Balls post, we used a straw to blow a cotton ball across the table, and then try to control our force a bit more to direct the cotton ball towards different shapes. You could try a cotton ball (or pom pom) race, too!

Straw Beads

I simply cut up a bunch of straws for impromptu beads and places them out for the kids to string on pipe cleaners. (I like to turn the ends of pipecleaners backwards to prevent the sometimes sharp ends from scratching the kids.) You could also put out yarn for necklaces — I like to wind a piece of tape around the edge of yarn if we are using it for lacing, to make it easier for the kids.

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What do you think? What other ways can you think of to play with straws?

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  1. I don’t have small children but all of these seem like really fun, time consuming activities, perfect for learning and having fun. I love the Alfalfa throwback, I remember that episode!!!

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