This surprisingly fun sculptural activity kept my 33 month old engaged for a long while. And the added bonus is that it’s also great for strengthening fine-motor skills, making color choices, and developing spatial understanding by making sense of the exterior and interior of an object.

colander sculpture

The set up

A handful of pipe cleaners and a colander on a low table.

N wasn’t sure what to make of it at first and asked me to play with her. So we sat down together and I started poking the pipe cleaners in the holes.

colander sculpture

Ahhhh, now she gets it. Once the ball got rolling I stepped back to let her explore on her own.

colander sculpture

This is so much fun!

colander sculpture

Once the top was “full,” she started working on the sides.

Colander Sculpture for Kids | TinkerLab.com

And then she wanted to know what was happening underneath the colander.

colander sculpture

After working on this for about 20 minutes, N figured out that she could loop the pipe cleaners and stick both ends into the colander. Cool.

colander sculpture

As of late, my daughter has shown a huge interest in building and sculptural activities. Maybe you remember my last post when she rejected the easel? So I’ll continue to continue to support this growing interest of hers and see where it takes her…and you can probably expect more sculptural activities here in the upcoming weeks.

While I can’t remember where I first saw this idea, if you’d like more pipe cleaner-colander inspiration, Anna and her daughters at The Imagination Tree did a similar project where her older daughter incorporated play dough into the sculpture! She packages this and other similar, stimulating activities as “Discovery Boxes,” which you can learn more about here. And if you don’t have pipe cleaners at home, but you do have straws, she also offers a Straw Discovery Box that is a super alternative.

This post was shared with We Play: Childhood 101, Skip to my Lou


  1. So cute! What a neat idea and so simple to set up! Go you!!

    My kids always love putting the sticks in for the kerplunk game and then pulling them all out to watch all the marbles drop, never once have we played the game properly! hahaha!!!

    • It was so simple, and so entertaining…the best kind of activity, for sure! I’ll have to look for kerplunk — it sounds like a game we may enjoy having around too!

  2. This is awesome! I will have to try this too because I think a certain 4 1/2 year old would love this. My daughter has always loved sculptural activities way more than painting and drawing. We’ve used pipe cleaners and toothpicks with play dough and snow which she loved. For X-mas, my daughter received this retro game: Kerplunk which has the same concept of putting and pulling out sticks from holes and not letting marbles fall! Thanks for reminding me that simple activities like this have artistic value!

    • Wow, that’s the second Kerplunk mention — must look into this game! I bet Cassie would enjoy this, and if it snowed here, we’d probably be sticking pipe cleaners in our snow too 🙂

  3. That looks wicked fun!!!

    And in that last photo, I see that baby stuck in the corner, forced to only observe! Watch out, she’s going to learn how to crawl soon so she can join right on in! Each of my kids crawled earlier than the last, until the third was walking at 11 months. 🙂

    • You are right about that baby, Amy, and you have a good eye for details. She actually has her moments of involvement, but I try to give my older daughter some 1:1 time when her sister is otherwise entertained. 11 months! That’s one early walker!! I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, since the crawling and walking is right around the corner!

    • thanks for the comment, scott 🙂

  4. Thanks for linking back to me! Why isn’t your daughter trying to wear the colander as a hat like mine did?! lol! Looks like you had lots of fun together. So many skills developed without even realising it- exactly why I love these types of open-ended play with no outcome in mind!

    • Haha! Your daughter with the colander hat cracks me up. Our kids seem to have so much in common, it’s a pity you live thousands of miles away!

  5. Great idea! My daughter has used pipe cleaners with model magic…something your daughter might enjoy exploring.

    • My daughter loves model magic (an expensive habit!). Thanks for the good suggestion.

  6. I did this with my daughter Cassie who is almost 3 yrs old, and we had fun together. It doesn’t take long, but we were both grateful for a new game to play. `

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for sharing this fabulous photo — I love how it appears to have turned into a whole-body experience! And isn’t it nice when the new games don’t cost a fortune?

  7. I think this would make a great sick day activity, although after almost two full sick weeks I am NOT anticipating another one!

    • You’ve been sick, too? I’ve been battling a cold for a week now, and both kids have been sick. It’s rough, and I am so looking forward to warmer days. This would be a keeper for an indoor day, for sure.

  8. Thanks for linking up to the Kids Art Explorers project with this wonderful sculpture 🙂

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