When you want some fine motor activity ideas there are few items more useful than the simple clothespin. Fit these clothespin activities into your child's day for some independent, screen-free play time that counter-acts excessive screen use and helps them develop the hand strength they will need for handwriting and other practical tasks.
This list of clothespin activities contains a wide variety of ideas for all skill levels, from simple toddler clothespin activities to clothespin engineering challenges for preschoolers and older kids! We start off with a very easy, no prep clothespin activity and move on from there.
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Simple Clothespin Activity
Sometimes simple is best, especially when it comes to busy parents. Even if your child doesn't require occupational therapy, practicing lateral pinch, developing hand-eye coordination and building motor planning skills are inherently beneficial, especially if they would rather use their fingers to swipe on a screen!
What you need:
Wooden clothespins. If you don't already have a package of wooden clothespins, I highly recommend getting one! They aren't expensive and they are useful for many kid activities and boredom busters. Plus, when fine motor time is up, you will find many uses for them around the house, like closing bags of chips!
If you are feeling fancy, get some colored clothespins.
Length of cardboard. Keep the next box you get in the mail, cut off a side and voilá, you have your clothespin activity base!
String. Use what you have around the house. A ribbon from a gift will do, or a spare shoelace. You'll need enough length to hold all the clothespins, but it doesn't need to be all one piece.
In preparation, clip all the clothespins to the string or ribbon. Next, place the materials on the table, (or floor, if your child prefers to hang out there) and instruct your child to transfer the clothespins from the string to the edge of the cardboard. When they've completed the task, they can move them back to the string.
You might need to demonstrate how to open and close the pins, as well as how to effectively manipulate the pinching activity to complete the task.
That's it! Depending on the age and skill level of the child, as well as how many clothespins you provide, the transfer may take a while, but that's okay!
30 More Clothespin Activities
You'll be surprised at how entertaining just a simple clothespin transfer activity can be, but if you want to jazz things up, there are plenty of ways to do so. Choose one or more of the following ideas.
Do you want an easy way to remember all of these activities without always opening up your computer? Get the "cheat sheet," a pdf that you can print out and keep in a handy spot. Fill out the form below and we'll send it over.
Hang up the alphabet
Use clothespins to hang up paper letters on a clothesline. This is a great literacy activity to help with learning the ABCs.
Clothespin alphabet match
First, write a lowercase letter of the alphabet on each clothespin. Using the same uppercase letter cards from the above clothesline activity, clip the corresponding pin to letter card. See how this works at I Can Teach My Child.
Gather together plastic cups or containers (yogurt containers are perfect). Write a number on each container. The child then clips the correct quantity of clothespins to that container. So if the container reads, "5," the child will clip 5 clothespins to it. Learn more at Mess for Less.
Clip all the clothespins end to end. Your child will love seeing how long a line they can make!
Clip the clothespins to each other in the shape of squares, triangles, trapezoids. The possiblities and sizes of the shapes are nearly endless!
For kids who are able to do simple addition, write an equation on an index card (paper or plastic cups work well, too). Then the child clips the quantity of clothespins on the container that matches the answer to the equation.
For example, write "1+2" on an index card. The child clips 3 pins on the card.
Clothespin color match
You'll need to use a package of colored clothespins, or use a marker to color directly on the clothespins. On a paper plate, color in 6 wedges that correspond to the color of the clothespins. The child then clips the clothespin to the matching wedge of color on the plate.
Clothespin as a pick up tool
Lots of fine motor skills activities suggest using a pair of tongs or chopsticks to pick up items (like we did with pom poms). Use the clothespins as a pick up tool instead!
Clothespin transfer and sorting activity
Structure an activity around using the clothespin as a pick-up tool. Try picking up and sorting all kinds of material, not just the aforementioned pom poms. What about small toys, LEGO minifigures, or beads?
Place all the items in one bowl. Then use a muffin tin or egg carton to sort out the items from one another.
Container clip bonanza
No need to get fancy, bring out a large bucket with a thin rim, or a bunch of plastic containers and a bowl full of clothespins. Then, one by one, clip the clothespins to the edge!
It seems so obvious, right? You could do this outside or inside. Stretch a long string or line from two sturdy objects. Inside use chairs, outside use trees. Then show your child how to hang up clothes. Beginners can hang up socks and washcloths.
Clip a dot
This is a good idea to work on hand-eye coordination and precision. Take a paper plate, or a piece of cardboard. Draw a series of large dots with a marker all around the edge. The child then aims to clip each clothespin directly onto the dot.
Toddler clothespin drop
Use clothespins instead of craft sticks to drop into the magic disappearing container every toddler loves so much! You'll need to cut the opening up a little bigger than for the craft sticks, but it will definitely work!
Seasonal clothespin decoration
Stir the Wonder has a great idea that gets kids helping to decorate for the season. Affix a paper leaf to each clothespin. Make a tree made from sturdy card stock or cardboard. Then, clip the leaf clothespins to the tree branches. You can do this for each season. In fall use orange, yellow, red and brown leaves. In winter, remove the leaves. In spring add clothespins with blossoms and in summer add green leaves.
This is a fun idea for older kids who need to work on their fine motor development. Write letters on the clothespins. For double-duty, put different letters on each side. Then clip the clothespins onto a paper plate or piece of cardboard to spell words.
Clip clothespins onto pompoms, a cotton ball or a piece of sponge. Holding on to clothespin, dip the pom pom (or other material) into paint and press onto paper. Repeat as many times as desired! Try using the dot painters to create symmetry art. Babble Dabble Do has some great suggestions for different materials to add to your clothespin paint "brushes."
Save those plastic berry baskets or use a wire basket or wire drying rack (the kind for cooling baked goods). Clip the clothespins to the grid.
Clothespin dice game
Reinforce counting skills while also working on the pincer grasp with this clever game from the Activity Mom.
This is a fun crafty activity. Moms and Crafters shows you how to make a simple clothespin puppet. She has a free template, but you could easily make them without it.
Clothespin number line game
At Fun Learning for Kids, they used clothespins on a number line to keep score during a dice game. Make a number line out of card stock, then as you roll the dice, each player moves their clothespin down the line according to their score.
Clip onto a pipe cleaner
Clip clothespins onto a pipe cleaner. The bendy nature of the pipe cleaner makes for a different experience than sturdy, stiff cardboard. Kids may also enjoy forming the pipe cleaners into shapes before they start clipping!
Clip onto towels
Hang a towel onto a clothesline or towel bar. Clip the clothespins on the the edge of the towel bottom and along the sides. This is a good activity because kids may need to use their other hand to steady the towel. Or, if you challenge them to do it with one hand behind their back, they give their hand-eye coordination skills and extra workout.
Clothespin card game
Use clothespins as playing card holders when playing card games. Therapy Fun Zone shows you how to play Clothespin UNO.
Hide clothespins around the room. As kids find them, they clip them onto a card or string.
This one requires a bit more preparation that most of the clothespin activities on this list. Essentially you put a different shape on each clothespin. You could use shape stickers or just draw the shape on the wooden clothespin with markers. Then cut up construction paper into large shapes. Kid attach the corresponding shape-marked clothespin to the paper shape. Read detailed instructions at Toddler Approved.
Clothespin drop and dump
This is a great clothespin activity for toddlers. Find a bottle with a large mouth. A glass milk bottle works well. Your toddler will love dropping the clothespins in the bottle one by one, then turning the bottle upside-down and shaking them all out! I love how simple ideas are the best for toddlers!
Build with clothespins
Building with clothespins is a good STEM activity for older kids. Provide a bowl of clothespins and a bowl of wooden craft sticks. Give your kids the engineering challenge of building a structure with just these two items. Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has some great examples.
Clothespin animal legs craft
Another way to use clothespins in a craft for kids is to turn them into legs. Kids can use their fine motor and cutting skills to cut out animal shapes with no legs from sturdy colored paper (like card stock). Next, color them, draw faces, etc. Finally, clip the clothespins to the bottom of the animal where the legs would be and stand them up! This is a great activity, using several fine motor skills, that also promotes pretend play.
Have you ever noticed how a closed clothespin (Hey! That makes a good tongue twister!) has a hole in it? Take advantage of the hole in clothespins to turn them into a lacing activity. The child can thread as the clothespins onto a string.