Washing-Line Games

Washing Line Activities

Does your child ever help to hang up the washing?

If you’ve got an outdoor line you will have discovered what a challenge of co-ordination and fine motor skills it is to use a clothes peg.

But like the scissor skills we talked about in the second email of this series, squeezing a peg to open its jaws is perfect for developing pencil grip. You are learning to apply pressure in a controlled way by pressing the thumb and first two fingers together.

A washing line provides a natural forum for easy, fun learning and can help with everything from colour recognition and counting to spelling and sequencing. Children enjoy being outside and the physical, whole-body nature of this activity is great fun in good weather. You can also create your own washing line indoors when it’s wet, with string tied between two chairs.

A few ideas:

Spot the missing number

Hang number cards from a line. Can you see which one is missing? Peg it in the right place: 1, 2, 3, , 5, 6, 7

Number line with missing number card

Alternating patterns

Can you continue this sequence: red sock, blue sock, red sock, blue sock? Can you make something more difficult? Red, blue, yellow, green, red, blue, yellow, green.

Matching pairs

Can you hang the socks in pairs? Red, red, blue, blue?

Matching pairs of socks on a washing line

The alphabet

Here are alphabet cards. Can you hang them in order?


Cut up the pictures from a well known story (perhaps you have a damaged, old book you could use) and sequence the pictures in the right order. Here is Goldilocks:

Your name

Here are some alphabet cards. Can you peg your name?

Sequencing stories on a washing line


How many words can you spell with these letters? s, a, t, p, i, n. If you have an older preschooler or your child has recently started school, this is a great way to encourage reading and writing.

Spelling CVC words on a washing line
Spelling common words on a washing line
Spelling high frequency words on a washing line


Hang these strips of paper in order of size. Here is an extra strip. Where does it belong in the sequence?

Putting strips in order of length on a washing line

Pegs and a line

Now that your child has seen the possibilities and developed the grip to peg with confidence, it’s time to give her an empty line. What will she do with it? Display her artwork? Wash her dolls’ clothes and hang them to dry? Make a nature display of flowers and leaves? What fun to be free to explore!

Note: These activities are intended to be completed independently, but please don’t leave your child unattended with a washing line.

An empty washing line, ready for preschooler activities

Just pegs

Squeezing pegs is hard. Give your child free access to them and let her build strength at her own pace. As a child, I liked to pretend they were crocodiles and I would go around ‘biting’ my family members.

It takes a lot of strength to use a clothes peg. If your child finds this difficult, she can still enjoy the activities by using old-fashioned pegs instead.

Give washing lines a go – you might be pleasantly surprised how long they occupy and challenge your child.