Playing with pipe cleaners

One of my favourite places to buy stuff for my kids is Poundland. I don’t tend to buy toys from there, but I do buy loads and loads of craft supplies. You can’t go wrong with a pack of pom-poms or pipe cleaners for a pound! And things like that seem to entertain my 3 year old a lot more than a ‘proper’ toy anyway. She loves how open-ended this type of play is, and it allows her so much creativity.

This time, I bought three packs of pips cleaners, for a grand total of £3 – one pack of bright colours, one of pastel colours, and one pack of sparkly pipe cleaners. I just emptied the packs out onto our new Tuff Tray (which I’m sure you’ll see appearing here again and again!), and she immediately started playing with them.

We’d never played with pipe cleaners before, so half the time she just liked feeling them in her hands, investigating how they bend and twist, learning about how she can manipulate them. Then, she enjoyed watching me make models out of them.

I can’t say I’m the most artistic person in the world, but I did manage to make some pretty cool-looking pipe cleaner flowers, which I was quite proud of!

We’ve played with these pipe cleaners again a few times since (that £3 spend will be good for a long time to come!), and we’ve made all sorts of things with them: a bicycle, a necklace, a hat, a wig, stick men, various animals, a pair of glasses, some different letters and numbers, etc. They’re great for all kinds of play.

My daughter’s still a little young to be making any real models herself yet, but she really enjoyed playing with the models I made, and coming up with different things for me to make.

Although, when I made a polar bear from a few white cleaners (at her request), her first comment was ‘why does it look so strange?’, so perhaps I should stick to simpler models to begin with!

When we’ve finished playing, we just take our models apart again, and pop all the pipe cleaners in a big Ziploc bag, ready for next time.

To play with pipe cleaners, you will need:

  • just some pipe cleaners!
  • you may also want to use a Tuff Tray or empty paddling pool to keep everything contained

You could extend this activity by:

  • adding some pom-poms to the tray to add to the fun
  • asking your older child to make different letters or numbers out of the pipe cleaners
  • talking about rainbows, and finding the correct colours to make a pipe cleaner rainbow
  • arranging pipe cleaners of different colours to make repeating patterns

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