DIY Montessori-Inspired Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers — Nuts and Bolts Board

I used to have one of these in my classroom, so I knew this was something I wanted my husband to make for the kids.  He says it’s pretty easy to make at home, so I’ve included his instructions for how to make this nuts and bolts board by yourself — see the bottom of this post!

We chose four pairs of nuts and bolts in different sizes so L would have to use size differentiation skills to find the nut that fit the right bolt in order to complete the work.  For younger toddlers, you can do this with all four nuts and bolts the same size so it would just be a matter of twisting the nuts onto the bolts.


I placed the board on the tray with the largest bolt to the left and a small bowl with the nuts at the top.  As with all Montessori works, we find the biggest nut first [See Pink Tower, Red Rods].  L twists the biggest nut onto the biggest bolt.  Then we find the next biggest nut and repeat until all of the nuts have been twisted onto the bolts.


L will sit with this work and do it over and over again for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.  The repetition of the twisting motion helps build focus and concentration skills, and the work naturally requires hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills to get the nuts onto the bolts.  This is a great work for kids two and up!


To make at home:  [DIY instructions written by @yes_that_woodwork]


2″ long hex head screws and nuts in the following sizes: 1/4-20, 5/16-18, 3/8-16 and 1/2-13.
1/2″ thick wood at least 3″ wide and 9.5″ long.  Get some 1/8″ board in this size too if you want to make a pocket for the nuts in the board.  I used pine.

1. Starting with a 1/2″ thick wooden board,  cut it to about 3″ wide and 9.5″ long.  Small boards like this can be found at big box stores — ask for “hobby board.”  Some stores even cut wood to a desired length for free. Sand all corners and edges with around 120 grit sandpaper so they’re safe for little ones to handle.

2. Drill four evenly spaced holes into your board for the different size bolts you have.  Make sure the holes progress from largest to smallest, left to right, with the optional pocket on the left.  For reference we use a 1 7/8″ spacing in the board in our etsy store.  For clean holes, use brad point rather than twist drill bits, and support the back of the board with a scrap piece of wood to prevent blowout.

3. To keep the screws from spinning when the child turns nuts onto them you have a few options.  Choose the one that suits the tools and material you have available.
Option A:  On the underside of the board, chisel out material to match the flats on the bolt head.  Epoxy the screw in place.
Option B:   Undersize each hole diameter by 1/16″ and thread the bolts into the wood.  Glue scrap wood (thicker than the height of the largest screw head) underneath the board against the flat of each bolt head for extra security.

4. If you want to incorporate a pocket that keeps the loose nuts on the board, start by drilling four holes at the corners of a rectangle.  Then use a jigsaw or coping saw to connect the holes (see picture). Glue a thin board the same length and width as the first to the bottom of the board so the nuts don’t fall out.

The finished product will look like this:

If you don’t have the tools, skills, or inclination to make this yourself, you can buy one from our Etsy shop here.  🙂

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