Nutcracker Game: Toy Soldier vs. Mouse King

by Meghan

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The Nutcracker is more than just ballerinas and tutus!  The battle scene features the Nutcracker and his army of toy soldiers versus the Rat King and his minions.  Today, I’ve recreated this battle with a fun Nutcracker game on a cinnamon stick tic tac toe board!

The second post in our Plan the Perfect Nutcracker Holiday Party series. All children's parties need games and activities - this one features the epic battle between the Nutcracker and his army of toy soldiers against the Rat King and his minions. Battled on a tic tac toe playing field

The Nutcracker Series

Welcome to Day 2 of our Nutcracker series! On Day 1, I shared a fun activity to Design Your Own Dancer, creating Nutcracker ornaments, while Eats Amazing shared the perfect snack to go with it, Banana Ballerinas.  You can catch all the posts in the series, to plan the perfect Nutcracker-themed holiday party, on the landing page.

Nutcracker Game: Toy Soldier vs. Rat King Tic Tac Toe

No child’s holiday party is complete without a few games.  I was able to paint and assemble the pieces for this one in a little less than an hour, split in two sessions to allow for the paint to dry overnight.


Nutcracker Game - Primary Supplies

The primary supplies overlap with our Nutcracker ornaments, with the addition of a few other craft items.


Wooden clothespin peg dolls
Wooden doll pin heads
Wooden doll pin stand
Acrylic paint – red, navy, black and gun metal
Paint brush
Gold Sharpie fine point paint pen
Gray foam sheet
Silver pipe cleaners
Gold ric rac
Silver ric rac
Cinnamon sticks for crafting (12″)
Hot glue

Cost: $20-30
Prep Time: Less than an hour
Clean-Up Time: Less than 10 minutes

Making Toy Soldiers

I spent about 30 minutes painting my clothespin pegs, heads and stands one evening, then another half hour the next day assembling the pieces.  For tic tac toe, you will need to make 5 toy soldiers and 5 rat players. To make your toy soldiers, you will need red, navy and black acrylic paint.

Paint the top half of the peg doll red, leaving the ‘head’ clean.  Paint 2/3 of the bottom half navy, and the bottom 1/3 black. It is easiest to paint the pegs by holding them from the head.  To allow the paint to dry, use their legs to clip them to the sides of a cardboard box or tube. Paint the doll stands black as well.

Nutcracker Game - Making Toy Soldiers

Once the paint has dried, using a fine point gold paint pin, add the button detail to the front of your toy soldier.  Then, hot glue a large, black pom pom to the back of the peg doll’s head for his hat.  Insert your peg into the doll stand.  It should fit snugly, but if it seems loose, you can add some glue to fix it in place. Last, for a little extra flourish, affix gold ric rac to the waist of your toy soldier, where the red and navy paint meet.

Nutcracker Game - Toy Soldier v Rat King Tic Tac Toe with Peg DollsMaking Rat King and His Minions

To make your 5 rats, you will need 5 peg dolls, heads and stands, as well as the gray foam, silver pipe cleaners and ric rac.  Paint your peg dolls, heads and stands with gun metal gray metallic acrylic paint. I found it easiest to paint the heads while they were propped on the peg dolls. Allow the paint to dry.

Nutcracker Game - Making the Rat King

Once the paint has dry, assemble your rats.  First, put hot glue inside head hole and affix to top of peg doll.  Next, choose one rat to be the Rat King.  Using hot glue, give him a ‘crown’ of silver ric rac.  Now, cut out 10 gray foam circles of approximately 3/4″ diameter.  Hot glue two circles to the upper rear of each rat’s head forming its ears.

To create his tail, cut a pipe cleaner in fourths.  Apply a dot of hot glue between the rat’s legs, and insert the pipe cleaner, pressing firmly into the glue.  Allow glue to cool, then bend the tail as you choose.

Make Your Tic Tac Toe Grid

This part is easy!  I found these awesome cinnamon sticks for crafting at Hobby Lobby.  They smell wonderfully and are about a foot long.  Using four sticks, create a tic tac toe grid, affixing the crossover points with hot glue.

Nutcracker Game - Tic Tac Toe

Time to Play the Nutcracker Game

This was my girls’ first introduction to tic tac toe.  Big M (age 4) caught on to the strategy of the game very quickly.  For Lil’ M (age 2), it was more about the practice of taking turns.

Nutcracker Game - Playing Tic Tac Toe

Nutcracker Game - Playing Tic Tac Toe with Toy Soldiers

And of course, when they tired of playing, they wanted to ‘play with them like people’, along with their Nutcracker Ballerina ornaments.  They spent the afternoon reenacting various scenes, and even asked for the soundtrack! The toy soldiers, rats and ballerinas have now taken up occupancy in our rotating Quiet Time Busy Box for the month, replacing last month’s Pin the Tail on the Turkey!

Be sure to visit the Plan the Perfect Nutcracker Party landing page to see all the posts in the series, including the fabulous food contributions from Grace at Eats Amazing!  And come back Friday when we reveal easy DIY Nutcracker decorations for your party, or even just your holiday mantle.  It’s so easy, your kids can help make it.

Nutcracker Game - Rat King v Toy Soldier Tic Tac Toe

You can find all the posts in the series on our Christmas and Birthday Party Ideas boards on Pinterest.

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Nutcracker Game - Toy Soldier and Rat King Tic Tac Toe

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Kelly November 15, 2016 - 4:36 pm

Hi, I’m planning a Nutcracker Christmas party with some children and I would love to have these available. I’ve never made a clothespin doll. I’m concerned that I will buy the wrong size “head” for the clothespin. Is the link to Amazon exactly what you used?

Meghan November 16, 2016 - 12:42 pm

Hi Kelly! Yes – I had tried to find supplies last year at Hobby Lobby, and all the clothespins were sold out, so I ended up ordering on Amazon, and these are exactly what I used! I would still recommend hot gluing the heads on the pins, because they come off, but those are the ones designed to fit the pins. The girls loved these – I packed it away with our Christmas decorations, and can’t wait to bring it out again next weekend!

Jennifer Dawn December 18, 2015 - 1:17 pm

What a fun idea! So cute! And the kids look like they loved it.

PGPBMeghan December 20, 2015 - 6:02 am

Thanks so much! They did – and it’s been so fun watching Big M teach everyone how to play Tic Tac Toe, like she’s the first child to ever play it! 🙂

Mary Wright December 9, 2015 - 6:38 pm

Such a precious idea. Mer Mer loves it!!! Don’t forget sugar plum trees with gumdrops stuck in a styrofoam cone tree shape. Love your creativity.

PGPBMeghan December 10, 2015 - 6:02 am

Thanks, Mom! No preschool while you’re here, so save all those great ideas for your visit 🙂 We can publish them all for next year!

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