Pipe Cleaner Activity to Keep Kids Busy

Fine MotorPreschoolers32 Comments

I was so excited to do this fine motor activity again with Louis! See down below when Henry did this activity back when he was just barely three.

Which brings up a point that I often forget myself. There is so much opportunity in going back and doing activities you already have tried. Whether its with the same kid (different age, different circumstances, it’ll end up different!) or with a younger sibling. I often forget to do this (I think its a blogger problem really since I try to come up with new ideas to try. A reason why I’m not the Oprah of Motherhood.)

This is a very simple activity. One of the most basic fine motor activities actually. All you need is pipe cleaners and a colander!

Is it one of our Simplest Activities Yet? Find out!

Set the two supplies out to explore, and you’re all set up! Nothing to do otherwise.

pipe cleaners and a colander!!

Louis poked the pipe cleaners through the holes. Instead of threading from the outside in and then through the other side of the colander and out again, he threaded the pipe cleaners from the inside.

From the inside of the colander, Louis stuck a pipe cleaner through a hole and then poked the other side of the pipe cleaner through another hole in the colander (not really threading).

Just pipe cleaners and a colander - such a simple fine motor activity for toddlers to try.

Louis is big into recognizing colors right now. We talked about the colors of the pipe cleaners as he chose one to poke in.

Just pipe cleaners and a colander - such a simple fine motor activity for toddlers to try.

He’d tell me the color he was looking for and grab it, or I’d suggest a color for him to find.

Just pipe cleaners and a colander - such a simple fine motor activity for toddlers to try.

He didn’t poke nearly as many pipe cleaners in as Henry had (see below), but he pulled them all out and started again instead.

Just pipe cleaners and a colander - such a simple fine motor activity to keep toddlers busy for a bit

Here’s Henry version from a few years ago.

I know Henry’s fine motor skills have never been his strongest trait. So, I do sneak in some fun here and there that works his fingers, such as the Dandelion Hat and Colored Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiment.

But this activity was not intended for Henry at all.

I set out this colander and some pipe cleaners for George to explore.

I did have Tinkerlab’s Colander Sculpture and The Imagination Tree’s Pipe Cleaner Discovery Box in the back of my mind. But I completely intended for this activity to be about George exploring the pipe cleaners. Thinking that a pipe cleaner sculpture could be for another day.


I received a free box of craft goodies from Craftprojectideas.com the other day and this Ultimate Fuzzy Kit was part of it. Basically a lot of pipe cleaners in various forms (regular ones, glittery shiny ones, and super fuzzy tiger-like ones) as well as pom poms and even some googly eyes.

George explored them a little bit at first. Mainly just feeling them out and swinging them around. A few went in his mouth here and there to check them out completely.

fine motor pipe cleaner activity

But that was the extent of it that morning.

Later at night, Henry found the stash of pipe cleaners! He thought it was cool that he could bend them into happy and sad faces. (Acting out each one as he made them.)

fine motor pipe cleaner activity

He struggled with making an angry face, he said he couldn’t. (Not sure what his intention was.)

Henry soon saw that he could stick the pipe cleaners into the colander and they’d stay put.


George did pop by to check out what big brother was up to.

fine motor pipe cleaner activity

George continued his exploration when he got a hold of one of the fuzzy pipe cleaners.

fine motor pipe cleaner activity

He liked how it felt on his neck. He kept wrapping it around and around.

Henry kept at his pipe cleaners. I was amazed at his concentration to stick those pipe cleaners in the holes.


I had only set a few pipe cleaners out for George. Henry quickly used all of them up and asked for more. By the time he was done, he had used the entire bag of pipe cleaners!

He told me he was making a ‘decoration’. Later he told me it was for Grandpa, too.


Some accidental fine motor practice happened without me even trying. Shows how play should be the center of a child’s life and learning just happens around it.

Henry really wanted to fill every single hole of the colander. (I didn’t have enough pipe cleaners for that though.)

fine motor pipe cleaner activity

The next day, Grandpa stopped by and Henry presented him with his ‘decoration’.


Grandpa was thrilled. Henry really wanted him to take it home with him.

Ready for fun with your kids?

Plan the fun with the free kids activities planner! And receive activities every week!

I'm Ready


  1. maggy, red ted art says

    Oh bless them! Aren't they simply adorable when they are proud of their work?!?! Love the activity – definitely fabulously sensory – both in touch and sight. Love it!

    As always, thank you for joining in with Kids Get Crafty!

  2. Becky @ Rub Some Dirt On It says

    I love this and plan to use it this week when the rain makes its appearance! I'll be sure to link back to you :) I wish you would like this up at my blog hop tomorrow morning–http://rubsomedirtblog.com–and share those sweet faces!

  3. says

    Thank you for posting this! In the midst of a crazy day and just trying to make dinner I remembered this acitivity and it gave me the peace I needed so I could make dinner. Linking to your post in my Thankful Thursday this week!

  4. Nannyto3 says

    I just did this with the 20 month I nanny and she loved it. She was able to put the pipe cleaner through the hole. I plan to bring this activity out on a regular basis. I love the idea of the different pipe cleaners.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *