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  • Writer's pictureVicki Manning

Peg doll and rings fine motor play

Today was one of those grey days where we didn't have anything planned and everyone was at a bit of a loose end.

I really couldn't put off the housework any longer, and Mr 2 was being a bit of a nuisance in that typical make-a-mess / climb everything way that toddlers have! I needed something simple to entertain him while I cracked on.

When it's sunny, water play is my absolute go-to for minimum set-up and maximum entertainment value, but when it's wet outside we love a bit of loose parts play.

I have a large tub of interesting bits and pieces (loose parts) that I can raid for a quick invitation to play and today I gave Mr 2 a little challenge for his fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are the co-ordinated use of the muscles in fingers and hands, and loose parts are a great way for children to explore and develop these skills.

Mr 2 is a very sensory-seeking toddler and still mouths everything, so a lot of our supplies are still a no-go for him as they are too small. He saw a box of large peg dolls and wanted to play with those, so I popped them in the tray with a selection of coloured hoops.

The coloured hoops we used are just wooden curtain rings dyed with food colouring, so they're totally taste safe. They're really simple to make:

  • Place natural wooden rings in a shallow dish

  • Mix several drops of each colour and a little water, enough to cover the rings

  • Let them to soak in the colouring for around 1/2 an hour

  • Put on paper towels and leave them to dry overnight

  • Seal with beeswax, olive oil or any toy-safe sealant.

For a bolder colour, try using liquid watercolours - they are a bit of an investment but they give really gorgeous vibrant results.

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The wooden rings were the perfect size to go over the peg dolls, so Mr 2 started stacking them on top of each other. It made a lovely sound as the rings clicked together.

Mr 2 explored the effects of gravity when he tried to stack too many rings on top and they fell down.

By manipulating and handling the rings, Mr 2 was developing his fine motor skills. These fine motor skills, including manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination, are vital steps in learning how to draw, write, use scissors and cutlery.

Once Mr 2 had practiced stacking, he started putting them on the rings in colour groups. This was a great opportunity to introduce some colourful vocabulary, and every time he chose and stacked a ring I said its colour.

What I love about loose parts play like this is that it's open-ended, in other words there is no pre-defined way to play, and as a result it has lots of potential for imagination.

Another bonus (especially for us mammas with big age gaps) is it's suitable for different ages and abilities. I always leave these activities out for the day in case my children want to return to them (Mr 2 played with them several times), and when Mr 6 came home he had fun joining in and stacked rings on their own.

For a lovely extension to this activity, you could add some other materials that can be used with the rings, such as ribbons for threading them on, a mug tree for hanging them from, or some coloured bowls for sorting.

For more ideas for introducing loose parts to your little one, check out my ultimate guide to loose parts.

If you want to add some tools to help develop their fine motor skills, you can find loads of suggestions on my list of the best toys for fine motor skills.

Have you tried playing with loose parts? How does your little one like to develop their fine motor skills?


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Hi, I'm Vicki!

I'm an author and mum to three energetic boys who love learning in a playful and creative way! For more playful learning, creative inspiration and crafts, visit us at:


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