Friday, August 26, 2011

Nuts and Bolts Game

Can you imagine asking a 6-year-old to pick up Cheerios one at a time and place them in a bowl? Me neither. I can just hear the “bbbboooooorrrrrriiiinnnnggg” coming out of his mouth. When my son’s perfectly delightful reading summer camp teacher told me this would be a great way to increase his fine motor skills for writing, I simply nodded. Then I went home and brainstormed. There had to be a more fun way to give him some fine motor practice, right?

That’s when I came up with the nuts and bolts game and ushered my husband off to the hardware store to pick up the necessary supplies.

8 1/2-inch x 2 1/2-inch carriage bolts
8 (or 16) 1/2-inch hex nuts (8 nuts for quick play; 16 for longer play)
Labels (download a PDF from Google Docs here)
Cards (download the front and back printables from Google Docs)
Sticker paper to print the labels on
Cardstock to print the cards on

How to Play
  1. Each child selects one bolt and draws a card.
  2. Depending on what that card says (either ‘rhyme,’ ‘opposite,’ or ‘shape’), he/she must look at the word/shape on the bolt and find the nut with the appropriate word on it and then screw it on.  For example, if a child picks the bolt with the word “head” on it and draws the “opposite” card, they must find the nut with the word “feet” on it. (The cards are color-coded to make this easier.)
  3. If the nut a child needs has already been used, he/she returns the bolt to the pile and play continues with the opponent taking a turn.
  4. The game ends when either all the bolts have been matched with nuts or no more can be matched.
This game is great for practicing rhyming, shape names, and opposites! To make it challenging, I purposely picked rhyming words which had different spellings (e.g., sun and done instead of sun and fun) and a few shapes I was sure my son wasn't familiar with, such as parallelogram and pentagon.

Note: The first time we played this, I only labeled eight of the "prolonged play" nuts. It was pretty discouraging when my son couldn’t make the matches from the cards he drew, because the nuts he needed were already used. Adding a second set fixed that and prolonged the game.

While these nuts and bolts are probably too big to technically give my son the fine-motor experience he needs, they definitely provided a little afternoon fun!


  1. What a great idea for teaching boys!

  2. This is awesome. I am going to share it with my readers at It is exactly the kind of fun therapy activity that I try to do and promote. Thanks for posting.

  3. I'm glad you like the activity, Tonya. Thanks for sharing with's readers!

  4. What an awesome idea! When I taught first grade, I had several students (mostly little boys) who DESPERATELY needed help with fine motor skills...and yet there wasn't anything very "fun" for that age. This is excellent. :)

  5. Wow you always astound me! I wish I could pay you to come and teach me how to make printable documents like you make.

  6. I use Microsoft Publisher, Sarah. A friend turned me onto it. It's pretty user-friendly and comes with most Microsoft Office software suites! (I must embarrasingly admit, it was on my computer and I didn't even know it!) Saving as a PDF is a snap!

  7. What a fun game. I might just use this one... think it will be real hit with all my boys. Visiting from

  8. This looks like such fun! My kids would have a great time with this.

  9. Is there any chance you'd be interested in uploading some information about this game to I think this would be a great addition to the database!

  10. What a wonderful activity! Thank you so much for sharing!