Arboretum News

Kids Activity: Acorn Play for Little Hands

Practice fine motor skills, counting and more with acorns.

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Photo by Reba Luiken.

By Reba Luiken, Arboretum coordinator of informal interpretation

After our acorn collecting trip last week, I decided to do some research about other nature play activities with acorns. They’re such a satisfying object to play with! This activity is geared to children 18 months and older and focuses on “fine motor” skills, which help build the muscles and coordination that kids need to learn how to write!

– Acorns
– Tongs or fine motor tools
– Muffin pan
– Duplos/Mega Bloks
– Bowl of water


1. Gather your materials! Take a walk outside to collect acorns. If it’s too snowy or there aren’t any oak trees nearby, you could also substitute pompoms. 

2. Prepare your play area. Put the acorns in a bowl. Fill up another bowl with water. Find a place to play that can get a bit wet!

3. Demonstrate using tongs to move acorns from the bowl into the muffin cups, Duplos/Mega Bloks, and water bowl. Younger children (say 18-36 months) will likely have to use two hands with large tongs, so you should too, as you demonstrate. 

4. Play! Gently encourage your child to use the tools to move acorns as they coordinate their finger muscles and brains.

Extensions: Children that are learning how to count and recognize their numbers can practice these skills with acorns, too. Cut out circles to fit inside each muffin cup and write numbers on them. Then, ask your child to put the matching number of acorns in each cup. For children that are learning to read, you could do the same but write out the number instead.

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