Inspire Small World Play with a Tissue Box Theater

This activity provides an opportunity for kids to engage fine motor and literacy skills with small world play. Kids can 'write' plays for their small actors and perform them on a homemade theater in this creative hands-on activity.

Ttissue box  theater for small world play - Preschool Toolkit

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Activities such as puppet shows and pretend play support the development of language and social skills in early learners.

Sometimes the activities that bring the most joy and creativity are made with the simplest materials, and the least amount of instruction.


Related: Farm yard and barn for small world play made from a shoe box.

Related: Puffy paint spacesuit added to a small animal figure for a small world  space theme. / from Books and Giggles


Supplies for tissue box theater for small world play - Preschool Toolkit


This DIY theater project can be completed with just a tissue box and basic craft materials. Kids can help design and decorate the curtain and tape the craft sticks in place.

Kids also have the job of performing plays with their small world players!

  • tissue box
  • tissue
  • 10 in. (25 cm) drinking straw or wooden dowel
  • tape
  • craft sticks
  • construction paper


Ttissue box  theater for small world play - Preschool Toolkit

                           Top side of the tissue.                     Underside of the tissue.                                          


1. Make a tissue 'curtain'.

  • Lay a tissue flat on the table as shown in the photo.
  • Left photo: Tape 2 or 3 crafts sticks to one end of the tissue.
  • Right photo: Cut pieces from construction paper to make a design to tape to the tissue' curtain'. This step is optional. You can leave the curtain white.
  • Right photo: Tape a craft stick to the end of the tissue opposite the design. 
  • Make a tab with construction paper. Tape the tab to the craft stick and the other side of the tissue.

Ttissue box  theater for small world play - Preschool Toolkit

2. Assemble the tissue box theater.

  • Cut the bottom out of the tissue box.
  • Enlarge the opening at the top of the box where the curtain will rise and fall.
  • Poke a hole on either side of the box near the top and insert a straw.
  • Line the bottom of the theater 'floor' with construction paper.

Interior of tissue box theater for small world play - Preschool Toolkit


  • Place the tissue 'curtain' over the straw as shown in the photo so the design faces the audience and the tab can be managed by the stage hand!


Raise the curtain at the tissue box theater - Preschool Toolkit

View back and front with curtain raised.


Gently pull the tab out of the box to raise the curtain. When you let go of the tab, the weight of the craft sticks on the bottom of the curtain will allow it to lower back to the floor of the theater, covering the stage opening.

Rest the tab on the top of the theater while you are performing your play.

Display a sign at the top of the theater to advertise coming attractions or simply to give a name to your theater. Make your sign with markers or self-adhesive letters on construction paper or cardboard.

While tissue may not seem like a strong material, we were able to raise and lower the curtain numerous times without any damage. It will not be hard to replace if it does get torn or worn out!


Read more on the 'why' and 'how' of small world play:

What is Small World Play and Why is it Important? from Teaching Mama

Small World Play Ideas for Extending Stories from Growing Book by Book


Pretend Play and Puppets and Theaters Pinterest boards.


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