There are so many fun new materials for little hands to explore at this time of year. One of my favorite quick-to-set-up activities is to simply provide my preschooler with a selection of festive loose parts, a few containers or cups, and some Learning Resources Fine Motor Tools. The freedom to explore in her own way always inspires so much creative play.

Materials needed:

The Set Up

This couldn’t be any easier to set up, simply put the materials and fine motor tools in the container! I chose to color code the loose parts and containers as an added sorting element to the tinker box. It is worth noting that of course if your little one still mouths items then avoid any small loose parts in your tinker box as they could be a choking hazard.

How the Activity Works

Tinker boxes or trays are simply an open-ended selection of materials that encourage your child to experiment and explore. There is no expected outcome or a particular way to play with the materials. Instead, the focus is more on your child having the opportunity to use each material however they wish. The really interesting thing is to see how your child combines the materials and uses them to drive their play.

When my 3-year-old opened the box she gave the cutest little gasp. She was so excited to be able to get her hands on all these loose parts without any restrictions. Straight away she set up some of the cups and started transferring materials. Moving the bells from one place to another may not seem like learning, but there are so many skills being developed here. She was working on her fine motor skills each time she moved a bell, as well as using her senses to explore the materials and then develop a vocabulary to express what she was experiencing. 

Adding fine motor tools to a set up like this helps to extend the play by adding a different element of challenge. My little one spent time experimenting if she could pick up the various loose parts with each tool. This offered an opportunity for some problem-solving. For example, the presents were too big to fit inside the Squeezy Tweezers so she had to switch to using the Jumbo Tweezers. She also realized after a while that she could fit more than one bell inside the Squeezy Tweezers which made filling the cups with bells much faster!

Due to the fact that the set contained only three colors- red, green, and gold, there was lots of focused color sorting. This led in turn to a great opportunity to work on some counting skills. As she filled the cupcake liners and cups she would count the items in. She also then spent time comparing the group sizes of each color. This is such a great early numeracy link as phrases like bigger and smaller, and more than and less than were often being used.

Have you ever tried using a tinker box with your child? It’s so fascinating to see how they use the materials and combine them with their own imaginative play ideas. Using Learning Resources fine motor tools is a great way to extend the play and add an extra challenge to transferring the materials. So much open-ended fun!