Make: Easy Winter Clothespin Dolls for Counting and Math Activities

Math is something that has never come easily to me, so in creating learning tools, I typically try looking for things I respond to – tactile, colorful items, games, or a story.  I can quickly make lessons in math overly complicated, so my main goal for this setup was to keep it simple with some sorting, counting, and beginner math.

I have used felt for Montessori-inspired learning toys in the past and find it works well, so I grabbed some clothespins, cut up some strips and simple shapes, and boom – in 5 minutes I had some adorable winter peg dolls and a bright little winter village.

Six colorful felt houses laid out on a white table with our DIY winter clothespin dolls.

Creating a set of these in multiple assorted colors gives you tons of options for learning through games or storytelling. With minimal supplies, you can easily create your own ready-for-winter clothespin folk a set of colorful, cozy homes!

For more simple seasonal felt learning and play, build your own colorful felt turkeys, or create an incredible DIY gingerbread bakery shop for imaginative dramatic play.

To make your own winter clothespin doll learning games you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


Discover 3 ways to explore sorting, counting and math from the same minimal supplies and simple template. | via barley & birch

Simple DIY Winter Clothespin Dolls Instructions:

  1. Prepare your peg people

    For your bundled-up peg people, simply cut a 1/2-inch strip of felt (about 7-inches long), tie it around the “neck” of a clothespin, and cut 2-3 vertical lines up the middle of both ends of the felt “scarf”. That’s it! I then cut a simple house shape out of paper and used it as a template for my little sorting houses. No glue, no paint, no drying time – so you can have a full set finished in 10 minutes.
    Six diverse winter clothespin dolls sitting on a white background
    It’s an added step, but you can easily create a diverse set of winter peg people like the ones we made above (and invite kid participation!). The little extra time spent is truly worth it. For simple supplies and brief instructions, stop by the tutorial for our DIY multicultural peg doll set.

  2. Cut simple houses out of different colors of felt

    Cut a simple house shape out of paper and trace it onto different colors of felt for a colorful set of matching houses you can use as a simple play prop.
    Our handmade winter clothespin dolls sitting on a white background next to cutout felt houses in corresponding colors.

Hands-on learning is not a kids-only sport. In fact, sorting and math are both concepts that I *still* like to feel my way through – quite literally. In my previous work at art & design firms, I often physically grouped items by color, texture, etc. – or printed out a series of shapes to build simple 2-D models from.

When we sat down to create our winter counting and sorting games, I didn’t have a grand plan but approached it as if I was playing a game myself. As we worked on the pieces & moved things around, more functions, approaches and possible games came to mind. Below are a few of the simple ideas I came up with for creating winter-themed sorting, counting, and math activities.

Create a Winter Color Matching Game

Six colorful felt houses laid out on a white table with our DIY winter clothespin dolls.

Make a color-matching game out of sorting the peg dolls so their scarves match the corresponding house color. You can take this a step further by writing or printing out small cards with the names of the colors to match the houses and clothespin dolls as well.

Make Simple Tangrams

A DIY felt winter house tangram laying on a white background

Put your felt winter houses to work as tangrams! Cut your felt houses into varying combinations of geometric shapes, sketch out simple tangrams on paper, and let your kiddos work on filling them in. OR, simply ask them to come up with 2 or 3 different patterns on their own. You can also create simple math games with your tangrams, discuss angles, or use them to explore fractions.

Once you’ve exhausted house-building, you can use the pieces to create other shapes. A boat, a tree, other geometric shapes – the sky’s the limit!

Build Winter-Themed Visual Math Problems

Three colorful felt houses laid out on a snowy landscape background with our DIY winter clothespin dolls.

Drawing a few snowflakes on a sheet of paper can instantaneously add such winter magic to math! After creating a simple snowy background, we laid out a few houses on top to create a little 2D winter village where we could move around brightly-scarved peg doll dwellers to practice addition and subtraction.

Our snowy tracks tray being used by a toddler to cover colorful felt houses and clothespin dolls with faux snow.

More ways to use your winter clothespin dolls

  • For a winter play station, set out our houses and winter clothespin dolls with a few of our winter-themed practical skill activities and snowy tabletop winter sensory garden. It’s always interesting to observe kids creating their own games and play activities – grabbing various accessories from different setups and combining them in their own unique ways. The snowy tracks tray (always a big hit) was an instant draw, and used to brush the felt houses with a fresh dusting of “snow”.
  • For imaginative play, combine your winter clothespin dolls with a fun DIY miniature playset, like this peg doll winter wonderland from Mr. Printables. Or build a small world for your dolls with our pinecone pine tree farm, and cardboard mini village.
  • Make a few simple little hats and mitten cutouts, and use your clothespin dolls to familiarize little ones with winter clothing accessories and seasonal dressing habits.
  • Have little ones work their fine motor skills by inviting them to tie the scarves on their clothespin dolls.
  • These little dolls are absolutely wonderful reading accessories. Pair them with your favorite winter-themed picture books to act out scenes from the story or come up with alternative endings and scenarios. Though they don’t necessarily know the vocabulary, this kind of imaginative play is a wonderful introduction to narrative, themes, characters, and sequence of events. SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
Seven colorful felt houses laid out on a white table with our DIY winter clothespin dolls.

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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