Ten Fun Games with Paper Cups

We love simple play ideas that can be put together quickly and easily – even better if it can be done with items found around our home. We’ve had this set of paper cups for about three years now (I bought them when R was just two years old). There are so many ways to play with them. Here are just ten ideas to get you started.

10 fun games to play with paper cups

1. Stacking – build pyramids from the paper cups

Stacking the cups is great for fine motor skills and is a great exercise for building patience, concentration skills and perseverance.

2. Knock ’em Down!

When you have built your pyramid, have fun knocking it down! We used a tennis ball as you can see in the photo, but if you’d rather not use something so hard inside the house then a rolled up pair of socks would work brilliantly. This game is great for gross motor skills and hand eye co-ordination.

3. Building and Construction

This is similar to game one but this time it’s all about using your imagination to come up with new and interesting structures. This is great for fine motor skills and there’s lots of learning going as well as kids test their ideas, finding out what will work and what will come tumbling down.

4. Catch!

One player can throw a ball (or pom pom, or pair of socks etc) and the second player tries to catch it in their cup. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you! It is so much fin and lots of giggles are guaranteed.


ten games with paper cups

5. Nesting

Nesting (placing all of the cups inside one another) is lots of fun for little ones who are developing their fine motor skills. This is especially great for the 0 – 3 age group – you know that phase when they love to take everything out of a container one by one, and then put everything back in again, only to take it all out again. For older kids you could turn it into a colour sorting game – nesting all of the same colour together as shown in the photo below.

 6. Pattern Making

Patterning is an important activity for learning early math concepts. Patterning helps kids learn to make predictions and helps them to see and understand how things work together. There are a couple of ways you can try patterning with paper cups. Firstly, line up some of the cups in an ordered sequence (for example I lined up our cups green green blue, green green blue) and ask your child to simply recreate that same pattern. For older kids, line up some cups in a sequence and then leave some cups missing off the end. Ask your child to predict which coloured cup should come next in the sequence.

7. Keep your eye on the ball!

The old game of speed and concentration. Place three cups upside down in front of you on the table.  Player 1 places a small ball, marble, pom pom or anything else that will fit, underneath one of the cups. Player 2 needs to keep their eye on that cup as player 1 moves the cups around as quickly as possible, trying to confuse player two and make them lose track of the ball’s location. Once player 1 has stopped moving the cups, player 2 has to guess which cup has the ball underneath it. This game is brilliant for gross motor skills and hand eye co-ordination (player 1) and concentration skills (player 2).

8. Paper Cup Pom Pom Shooter

These are SO much fun and they can be whipped up in under a minute. Seriously! I’ll publish a post about making them next week and will update the link here when I do, but really, they are easy peasy. Cut off the base of your cup. Tie a knot in the end of a balloon (don’t blow it up!) Now cut off the round end of your balloon. Stretch the balloon over one end of the cup. Pull back on the knot of the balloon, place a pom pom inside the cup, release the balloon and whoosh! Watch that pom pom fly!

Paper cup pom pom shooter

9. Cricket, or golf, or …..

You can make up all sorts of games using a cricket or baseball bat, or a golf club. We tried hitting some balls into two paper cups which we had laid on the floor.

It was almost impossible to get the balls inside the cups but R had fun just rolling the balls around with the cricket bat anyway!

10. Ball Toss (and creating your own games)

After abandoning the cricket bat, R tried tossing the balls into the cups that we had placed on the floor. This proved to be great fun. Since our cup and ball colours matched, we tried throwing all of the green balls into the green cup and all of the blue balls into the blue cup.

We also tried placing lots of cups on the floor and then throwing the balls into them. We made up all sort of games where points were earned according to where the ball landed.

So much fun from a simple stack of cups!

What we learned:

Fine motor skills Gross motor skills
Hand eye co-ordination
early math concepts
concentration skills
questioning and reasoning
making predictions


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Looking for more fun ways to play indoors? Here are some other activities we’ve enjoyed recently. Just click on the photo to read the full post.

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  1. Keep your eye on the ball is a game I loved playing with Cam when she was 18 months. I think she’d love playing that with her younger brother too.

    I’m going to have to borrow your pom pom launcher idea. I think Cam would find that hilarious.

    Thanks for the round up of ideas.

  2. What a great list of simple yet fun ideas!!! Great for a big community picnic if the kid are getting restless or need some distraction from other things. Thanks for all the beautiful pictures too – loved seeing so many ideas in photos!

  3. I’m going to make sure I always have a stack of cups in the cupboard from now on :)

  4. Caz

    What a great collection of games! This will sound nerdy but I love your paper cups, the colours are lovely :D We have never made a pompom launcher before, looks easy and heaps of fun will have to give it a go this weekend.

  5. So many fun ideas! We will definitely be giving these a try!

  6. Great ideas. It’s so wonderful playing with open ended ‘toys’ isn’t it!

  7. Lots of good ideas! I was getting short of games … This is a must try!

  8. I have a stack of paper cups in the craft box – we’ll have to pull them out for games because these look like lots of fun :-)

  9. Penny

    Oh, I love these Ness! What great ideas. I was playing card with hubby the other days and started making a house of cards. It was too hard for Miss Poss so it would be great to start her off with those cup building ideas. They are perfect!

  10. Great collection of games!

  11. nae

    great ideas. How much fun can you have with simple things like cups :)

  12. So much simple, doable, fun!
    I’m off to buy some more paper cups as the last ones we had (left over from a party) were all used up trying to master a specific magic trick! LOL

  13. You’re making me want to rush out to buy some cups! Some fantastic and simple ideas here :)

  14. Oh wow! Ness this is a fabulous collection! I’m excited to try some of these with my girls! :)

  15. This post was perfectly timed! I just bought a set of cups and my kids loved making pyramids, but now they are getting a little bored. I was trying to think of new ways to play with the cups and now I have 9 more ideas! Thanks.

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