Paper Boat Play

I'd be very surprised if you said to me that you have never made a paper boat before. They are a play staple from our own childhood and go back much further than that. How much further? I'm not sure - Google it and let me know!

This post isn't going to be about how to make them (Red Ted Art have a great video for that) or even why to make them. My aim in this post is to show you how simple changes to your play set-up can influence a child's interest and therefore the length of time they spend on the activity. Now saying that, there are always going to be days and times when a child is not interested and that's OK. It's not our job to dictate their play and they should be free to pick and choose as they please. But I do believe it is our job to intrigue and entice them with new ideas and concepts and follow their lead from there.

Playing with coloured paper boats

In the above photo you can see how our paper boat play finished, lets step back though and take a look at how it began...

On one of the first hot days since Winter we filled up our water table and made paper boats out of newspaper on a whim. It was the first time the kids had seen a paper boat and they thought it was pretty cool.

Newspaper paper boats

However a toddler plus a boat that goes soggy and quickly stops being a boat doesn't make for a great play experience. It was frustrating. Several soggy boats (and tantrums) later he had had enough and went off to play with something else.

Wet and soggy paper boats

Toddler with wet paper boats

I took this opportunity to reflect and made two changes to see if we could spark that interest and intrigue again. First of all I made the boats with thin coloured cardboard and then I added a little blue food colouring to the water. It didn't take me long and it didn't change the intention of the activity but it certainly made it more appealing! If you compare the photos of the newspaper boats to the photos of the coloured boats you will instantly see what I mean.

Coloured paper boats and coloured water

The cardboard boats didn't last forever, but they did last that little bit longer so that the play was more enjoyable.

Thin cardboard paper boats last longer

What little changes have you made to play set ups that improved the experience for the children? I'd love to hear about them, or better yet see some photos!

If you would like to know more about the homemade sensory table that we put the boats in you can find both the instructions and more play ideas here.

What are you waiting for?
Go and enjoy the way they play today!


Paper boat collage



  1. Yay a new post from Ali! Good job!! I think I have a confession to make that I do not know how to make paper boats - haha! Your second attempts look great though xx

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  3. We as a whole recognize what boats are; they are minimal sunken structures that buoy on the water surface.


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