Baby Play: Tugging Boxes

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

While not the prettiest of my replicate-at-home baby play items, tugging boxes help little ones explore cause and effect (STEM) while also experiencing different textures (sensory play) and building fine motor skills by wrapping their fingers around small items and developing muscles by pulling.

I haven’t found the perfect combination to make these tugging boxes sturdy but physically attractive so that more little ones and parents gravitate toward them during playtime. I’ve considered wrapping the boxes, but I think the babies would then focus on trying to tear off the paper. If you have any ideas on making these more visually appealing, please comment below!

Overall, this is a great item that requires some time to make but no setup before storytime. I use a pencil to punch 3 holes in each side of the box and then weave various types of string, rope, lace, thick yarn, etc. from one side of the box to the other. After tying off both ends of the string (making a knot large enough so that the material cannot be pulled back into the box can be difficult), little ones can pull on one end of the string and see what happens to the other side of the string.

How to Make Tugging Boxes

Materials: empty box, pencil, various types of thick string/yarn/rope, shipping tape


  • Poke 3 holes with a pencil in each side of an open, empty box.
  • Weave string or rope through two holes, so each end of a string comes out of a different side of the box. Tie large knots to each end of the rope so that neither end of the rope can re-enter the box when the other side is pulled on.
  • Repeat the second step until all holes have string or textured yarn in them.
  • Use shipping tape to secure box seams and to tape the box closed.

Cost: $0-10

  • Variety of thick yarns, ropes, lace, etc.

Time to Make: 15 minutes

Pro-Tip: Consider using a tool smaller than a pencil to poke the hole in the box. Also, it may be valuable to tape the yarn or rope you are trying to weave through the box holes to a paperclip or pipe cleaner to help thicker materials move through smaller holes.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you pull the string all the way through?
  • Which string is the widest?
  • Which string is the softest?
  • How does the string feel?
  • What happens if you pull the ribbon?
  • How long can you make the ribbon?
  • What color is the ribbon?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:




Leave a Reply