Bolt Sorting, Matching & Stacking

Like all little boys Dimples loves anything that Daddy fiddles with in the yard. He is always keen to explore the shed, pretend to mow the lawn, build and fix things like Daddy does and play with tools. This bolt & nut play was perfect to keep him occupied on a beautiful sunny day as we tinkered around the yard.

This little activity is so simple and fits perfectly with role playing Mr. Fix it and with an extra learning bonus it offers some practise in fine motor skills, cognitive development in focus & attention, sorting by shape, length and by size, matching and stacking by size.

I started with a collection of different sized bolts and washes. A few different widths and a few different lengths, all with matching ends, Some had multiple ends. Just to make it interesting I added a padlock and keys in to see if Dimples could master it and find the right Key without guidance.

Dimples stacked the nuts up, it took alot of focus and concentration to do so.
Through cause and effect he learnt that he needed to stack it up with the large pieces on the bottom, decreasing to the smallest on top for the best and most stable stack of nuts.

He Balanced the bolts up on their ends. Balancing and sorting them from smallest to largest. Putting them all in a row and making a "fence".
Dimples matched the bolts to the right size nuts and had to concentrate on using his fine motor skills to twist and turn the nut up evenly onto the bolt without stripping it or getting it jammed.
He fiddled around experimenting on which way the nut goes depending on which way he spun it, up the bolt or back down.

Then came the Key, this was tricky. Dimples found the right key, at first it didn't fit so he turned it around and it didn't fit, after a few wiggles he got it in. The he had to manipulate it to hold on the padlock with one hand and turn the key in the correct direction with the other to pop it open.
He threaded some of the washes on to the padlock and lined it up, pushing it locked again.



Something so simple that we take for granted. I had never really considered the skills it takes to unlock a padlock or thread bolts. To a growing and learning mind of a 3 year old who has never opened a padlock before or had to use such focused fine motor skills, this is a huge accomplishment!


  1. This activity is great on so many levels! Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Showcase. :)

  2. I've wanted to do this for a while, both the nuts and bolts and padlock idea. It is nice to see it actually being done. I will have to try it with my buddies.

  3. I love this idea...and the concentration on that little face!Thanks for linking up to the weekly kid's co-op...pinning to the board now!

  4. What a great idea!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!



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