Engineering for Toddlers: Nuts and Bolts

by Meghan

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Our Architecture and Engineering for Kids series has been a big hit with my preschooler.  What I didn’t anticipate was how much my toddler would enjoy the all of the construction challenges too!  So this week, I set out to create an engineering for toddlers activity.  And inspiration hit during a trip to the hardware store.

The latest installment in our Architecture and Engineering for Kids series targeted my toddler - who has shown as much interest and enthusiasm in our engineering and construction challenges as my preschooler. This Nuts and Bolts Busy Box tested her color identification, matching and fine motor skills, while also introducing her to simple machines! | STEM | STEAM | Toddlers | Busy Box | Engineering for Kids |

Engineering for Toddlers: Nuts and Bolts

An often overlooked resource for kids activities is the hardware store.  You won’t find any toys more durable than real life hardware.  And turns out, it is way cheaper than the plastic toy varieties.  We purchased all the hardware for our Nuts and Bolts Busy Box for less than $5!

Trip Down the Hardware Aisle

The hardware aisle is full of great fun for kids.  You just want to make sure you choose the larger hardware pieces and be sure your child is past the stage of putting pieces in their mouth.  For our Engineering for Toddlers Nuts and Bolts Challenge, I picked out 5 large bolts and 5 matching nuts.  And while color is optional, we have been working on color identification with my toddler.  Spray paint was on sale at the end of the next aisle, so we grabbed four different colors from the clearance sale: pink, purple, aqua and red.


5 bolts
5 matching nuts
Spray paint (4 colors, optional)

Engineering for Toddlers - Nuts and Bolts-2

To color our nuts and bolts, I gave each pair a quick, light coat of spray paint.  I sprayed the bolts inside of a cardboard box, and the nuts, I threaded onto a wooden skewer I wrapped in foil to protect from the paint. Be sure not to over coat your nuts and bolts or they won’t thread easily. I also left one nut and bolt unpainted, adding a 5th pair to the mix.

Fine Motor Challenge for Toddlers

My toddler, Lil’ M, is very proud of her newly mastered color identification skills.  She loves naming colors, and matching like colors.  So she started off by pairing the matching nuts and bolts.  Then, I showed her how the nuts and bolts fit together.

Engineering for Toddlers - Nuts and Bolts-5She took over, until she needed help getting them off.  I taught her the same rhyme my Grandfather taught me… “Lefty loosey, righty tighty!”

[bctt tweet=”Lefty loosey, righty tighty! Engineering for toddlers #STEAMedu #ece #finemotorskills” username=”PGPBMeghan”]

Nuts and Bolts Busy Box

She has enjoyed this simple engineering for toddlers activity so much, I turned it into our Busy Box this month.  I keep a simple, independent play activity in a box the girls can access themselves, and frequently change it out.  It makes for great and easy entertainment when I am nursing their brother or cleaning up after meals.  And most of all, I love that it encourages independent play.  Check out all our Busy Box activities to date.

Engineering for Toddlers - Nuts and Bolts-3

Want more great STEAM ideas for kids?

Check out the latest collaborative book from the Kid Blogger Network – STEAM Kids! Featuring a year’s worth of science, technology, engineering, art and math ideas for hands-on learning to inspire the next generation of innovators and creators. It’s already topped Amazon as the best selling book in it’s category! Order the ebook from the Playground Parkbench store or get a hard copy on Amazon today!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Sewing Buttons for Corduroy and SPLAT! Pollock-Inspired Painting for Toddlers.  You can find all of these on our Toddlers board on Pinterest.

Engineering for Toddlers Nuts and Bolts Collage


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Dorothy Hastings June 27, 2016 - 7:42 am

Kids are very curious and love to do some creative work. It drags their attention towards new things and makes their understandings very broad. These articles have very nice ideas which will let the kids to use their creativity and talent.

maria May 10, 2016 - 7:49 am

What a fabulous idea. I want to dismantle all of my garden furniture now and spray paint the nuts and bolts!

Meghan May 10, 2016 - 1:11 pm

No need for destruction! You literally can get a handful of each at the hardware store (they have bins FULL of all sizes) for just a few dollars.


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