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Friday, April 10, 2020

How to Play with a Grimms Rainbow: Over 50 Play Ideas

Without a doubt one of the most popular wooden toys available is the Grimms large rainbow. But why are Grimms rainbows so popular? Should you buy one? Who are Grimms? and how do you play with a Grimms rainbow? 

Don't worry, by the end of this post I'll answer all your questions and you'll know everything you need to know to determine if you want to add a Grimms rainbow to your home, school, or early learning centre, as well as over 50 ways to play with a large Grimms rainbow. Plus I'll let you know where to buy my rainbow play ideas PDF booklet so you can have loads of rainbow play ideas printed in one handy place.
Grimms large wooden rainbow


Grimms Spiel & Holtz Design {more commonly known as Grimms} is a world renowned family owned German toy manufacturer. They've been designing, manufacturing and selling wooden toys since 1978 and they're now stocked in boutique toy stores all over the world. Grimm's specialise in open ended Montessori and Waldorf inspired toys made from sustainably sourced wood. The Grimms rainbow is arguably their most popular and well recognised toy.

When people talk about a Grimms rainbow they're most often referring to the large 12 piece coloured rainbow. However Grimms also have large rainbows available in pastel, natural, monochrome and sunset {which is a slightly smaller 10 piece inverted coloured rainbow}. Each of the different types of rainbows also come in small, medium and large versions so there's a rainbow option for everyone. The play ideas I've included in this post are all for the large size rainbow and most can be done in any colour way, with the exception of the colour sorting ideas which obviously won't work with a natural  or monochrome rainbow.

Grimms traditional rainbow, pastel rainbow, monochrome rainbow, natural rainbow and sunset rainbow

Each Grimms Rainbow is hand carved from lime wood and stained with non-toxic water based colours. Each individual arch is hand dipped into the colour glazes that leave a velvety-rough surface as they penetrate the wood fibres. The slightly rough surface is maintained by not adding a protective vanish, which is what makes the Grimms Rainbows so easy to stack. It also allows the natural grain markings of each wood piece to remain as a distinctive feature. Every Grimms Rainbow truly is unique.

As each rainbow is handmade and thus takes a while to manufacture, stock is often sold out. Stores across the world only receive new shipments every few months and they quickly sell out as demand is so high. Luckily there are now quite a few online stores that sell Grimm's rainbows, our favourite stores in Australia are The Creative Toy Shop, Lime Tree Kids and Entropy Toys. There's also some rainbows listed on Amazon.


The main reason this question is asked is because the Grimms rainbow is quite an investment compared to other toys. Is it worth saving up and spending the extra money on a Grimms rainbow vs say a Kmart version?  Is it really worth all the hype? 100% yes!

Contrary to popular belief, the Grimms Rainbow is a lot more than an expensive piece of decor to sit on the shelf. The rainbow is probably one of the most open ended toys on the market, and by the end of this post you'll see why. My kids are constantly blowing me away with the creations they make using the rainbow, and us adults have spent just as much time playing with it too. 

The Grimms Rainbow isn't just some arches of wood, it's whatever your child wants it to be. It's a building toy, a sorting toy, a stacking toy and is perfect for imaginary play. It can be a tunnel, a house, a bridge, a wall and so many other more intricate animals and objects {continue reading below to see what I mean}. It can also be played with flat on the ground, vertically or be made into 3 dimensional objects.

By engaging in play and exploring the rainbow and its possibilities children are naturally learning and developing a wide range of skills. They're exploring maths and engineering concepts, they're problem solving to place the pieces in just the right way. They're learning about balance, counter balancing, weight, height, spatial awareness and sequencing. They're classifying by size and colour and they're actively thinking outside of the box.

download wooden rainbow play ideas pdf here


  • Problem solving
  • Colour recognition
  • Spatial awareness
  • Hand/eye coordination
  • Improves concentration
  • Sorting & classifying
  • Balancing objects
  • Counterbalancing
  • Hypothesizing
  • Imaginary play
  • Sequencing


Open ended play is play where the child is an active participant with no right or wrong way to play and no specific outcome. Open ended play is when children are free to express themselves in any way they like and can be creative with the objects they're playing with. For example when building with blocks, playing with a stuffed animal or using a cardboard box, each time the play will look different depending on the child's imagination.

Girls playing with plastic building blocks that look like large lego pieces.

The Grimms Rainbow is a perfect open ended toy because there are numerous ways to play with it and the possibilities are only limited by each child's imagination. Of course there is the set way to stack the colours so they make a rainbow, but that doesn't mean children have to stack it that way and that's not the only way to play with it. You'll see by the end of this post that there's many other out of the box ways to play with a wooden rainbow, here's more than 50 ways to play with a wooden rainbow to get you started.

50 different Grimms Rainbow play ideas


Before we get into the more advanced ways to use a wooden rainbow, here's some simple ways to incorporate a Grimms rainbow {or any other wooden rainbow} into play for toddlers and infants. Younger children aren't going to have the fine motor or reasoning skills to stack a rainbow, but they can manipulate the pieces and interact with the rainbow when it's set up in simple configurations.
Baby stacking grimms rainbow pieces

When we first got our Grimms Rainbow my youngest daughter was only 18 months old and her favourite thing to do was just sit on the floor and move the pieces around to different spots. She used to explore them on their side, upside down wobbling them back and forth and upright as arches.

Grimms large rainbow displayed as a mountain.

One of the first ways we manipulated the rainbow was to create a rainbow mountain. To do this you just need to push each piece out so half of each arch is under the next piece. This makes a 3D rainbow which looks like a descending rainbow mountain. The girls like to add peg dolls and their Grimms Friends to make them climb the mountain.

Grimms rainbow horn
You can also easily change the rainbow mountain into a rainbow tunnel by curving all the pieces to the left. It kind of reminds me of a french horn too.

Grimms rainbow used as a painting guide

When my eldest daughter was 4 she used the main colours of the Grimms Rainbow as a visual reference while painting a paper plate rainbow. It was an easy way for her to learn what order the colours of the rainbow go.


It seems a bit odd at first to imagine a wooden rainbow can be converted into a 3D version of something else, but it is entirely possible.
Grimms rainbow 3D flower sculpture

We made this Grimms flower using everything except the two small purple pieces. It looks really realistic, but yes it does annoy me a little that the green is at the top and the red is at the bottom because I think the colours would look so much better inverted. I think this would be great to try out with the retired sunset rainbow as the greens would be at the bottom and petal colours would be at the top.

Grimms rainbow 3D flower stack
The girls saw lots of other flower stacks while we were scrolling Instagram and they wanted to try one so we made this flower stack together. This is another really simple one for the kids to make as most pieces balance onto each other without rocking the stack. See Wooden Toy Play's flower stack here for a slightly harder version.

Wooden rainbow crested wave stack
I love, love, love this swirl creation from my Insta friend Jana {Playroom Stories}. To me it looks like an ocean wave breaking. She even stacked two rainbows on top of each other like this, see them here.

Bear stack using the Grimms Rainbow

The girls begged me to make a bear for them so we made this {slightly lopsided} bear stack. It was relatively easy except the blue left ear piece is a bit temperamental and falls off quite easy, I'd recommend adding that piece last so it doesn't keep falling off as you add the facial features. You can also make this one flat on the ground and use some wooden rings as eyes.

My daughter made this one a few years ago and told me it was a rainbow playground. I love how kids imaginations aren't constrained by logic. If you look closely though the red and orange pieces look like a slide, the blue on the right is a bridge and the stack on the left is a climbing frame.

Grimms rainbow eyeball sculpture using a plastic ball
This grimms rainbow eyeball was actually an accidental creation by my 6yr old. She was initially trying to recreate the circular ball run {see bottom of this post} but then realised when she added a plastic ball that instead of a ball run fail she'd actually created an eyeball.

3D tree using the Grimms large wooden rainbow
I made this rainbow tree using 9 of the pieces when the kids weren't around. Use the biggest red piece as a base to balance the bottom of the tree pieces up then balance the smaller pieces on top. This would be great to do with a mix of different rainbows so you could get more green arches at the top, however as I said before kids aren't bound by logic, so they probably don't even see the arches as the wrong tree colours.

Car made from a Grimms rainbow

You can even make a 3D car with the Grimms Rainbow. Marta on Instagram made this one. I've included the empty sideways view so it's easier for you to recreate at home. Be careful when you add a doll or other driver though because you don't want to collapse the car.

Grimms rainbow stacked as a person.

I'm so in love with this man my 6yr old made. She says this is a grimms rainbow dj because the bottom arches are his arms doing the decks at a party. I think it's pretty cool and it was really easy to stack. You could also make just the face and balance that on it's own.


This question is similar to how long is a piece of string? There is no specific number. The possibilities are endless. There are so many ways, and people are coming up with more ideas every day. My children come up with weird and wonderful creations all the time. To get you started though here are 17 different ways to stack a Grimms Rainbow that myself, my kids and a few friends from Instagram have created.

Semi circle grimms rainbow stack

My very first ever attempt at a rainbow stack was this semi circle stack. It looks pretty easy {and it is compared to a lot of the other stacks in this post}, however you still have to play around with the placing of each piece so the weight is counterbalanced right. Using the smallest piece to prop up the others makes it a lot easier.

Leaning semi circle rainbow stack
Of course when I started trying to stack the rainbow Trent had to have a go at it too. He tells me his version of a leaning semi circle stack is a lot better than mine because it was waaaay harder to get right. I don't know, you guys can be the judge on that.

Walk the arch grimms rainbow stack
This stack is called walk the arch because it appears as though all the colours are walking around the biggest arch. I first saw it on Jana's page and it looks deceptively easy, however it isn't. You have to start on the left then stack the red, orange and yellow piece and then finally carefully add in the green arches. It's a very delicate balancing act.
Grimms smiley face see-saw rainbow

My daughter created this smiley face seesaw stack by herself. She was trying to get it to balance and rock like a seesaw then realised after she added the blue pieces it looked like it had eyes and a nose. It rocked like a seesaw when she gently pushed it on the end.

Grimms wide arch stack about to fall

This wide arch stack might look relatively easy, but it's not just a stack, it's also a trick. If you line up the pieces correctly when you tap the very centre piece they'll fall perfectly back into place one by one to rebuild the rainbow. Spoiler alert, ours did not collapse properly and was an epic fail! If you want to watch it go to this post and click across to the video. It was probably more fun watching it fail {well for me, not Trent}.

Grimms rainbow reflections stack
This reflections stack Jana first created is actually pretty easy to do. Stack the bottom smaller pieces and then add the red piece and slowly balance each of the other arches inside. When you're finished it looks like the rainbow under the red arch is a reflection of the top one.

Peacock stack using the grimms large rainbow

I made this stack on a whim just fiddling around with what the arches could do. I dub this one the peacock stack because it totally reminds me of a bird fluffing it's tail feathers to show off. To make it you need to stack the arches under and over from red to the first purple, then slot the last 2 pieces into the remaining gap.

extended swan wing stack using large rainbow
This is the extended swan wing stack because it looks like a swan wing when they're outstretched. It looks even more impressive if you have two rainbows and stack them inverted side by side like Jana did here. If you look closely you'll see it's the same as the stack above just positioned vertically instead of horizontally.

To make this Grimms rainbow wide tower I just haphazardly stacked the pieces from largest to smallest on the left and right side from the bottom piece. Then I placed our Grimms friends onto colour coordinating sections. This one took a bit of patience, but I was doing it for an Instagram Grimms challenge so I persevered until it worked.

Grimms rainbow vertical stack using large rainbow
If you get bored of the low stack ideas, go high! The easiest way to stack a grimms rainbow vertically is to place all the pieces {except the smallest} on top of each other from biggest to smallest. It's a bit tricky at first {especially with a toddler constantly trying to knock it over} however, once you get the hang of it you'll be able to balance it like this in no time. Then it's time to move onto the more trickier stacks.

spiral stepped tower stack using the large grimms rainbow

Another fun way to vertically stack the Grimms Rainbow is this stepped spiral tower my Instagram friend Jana made. To make this one you'll need to stack all the pieces on their side moving each piece further to the right to maintain a centre of gravity. It may look relatively easy, but it's harder than it looks. Have a look at her post here to see what it looks like from above.

After seeing Jana's creation above, my daughter decided to make her own basic version of a stepped tower stack. She's been working on it non stop for two days before she got it to stack perfectly and now she won't stop making it. She said the sides look like steps for people to climb up. FYI this is actually quite a challenging stack for a 6yr old, but I've never seen her so determined or concentrated on one project for so long.

The girls made this bendy beanstalk stack with me. They started trying to make a lop sided stack themselves when I suggested we try and make a bendy stack that goes right then left like a zig zag. This is the best we could get it without it collapsing.

My friend Jana from Playroom Stories also made this stack and dubbed it The Leaning Tower of Rainbow. How amazing is it? I haven't attempted this one because I'm almost certain I don't have the patience and I think it would involve a lot of swears. Jana managed to do it with this rainbow and the Grimms sunset rainbow, check them out here.

Grimms alternating circle stack with large rainbow

This circle stack has been my arch nemesis for months now. I've tried to stack it so many times and failed. I ended up conquering it with the help of my 6yr old {yeah I cheated}. I got her to stabilise some of the pieces for me as I added more on top and then thankfully it stayed together once we got to the top. Mission complete, finally! I think Alison and Dion were the first ones to make this stack.
Grimms tall circle stack
I made this tall circle stack late at night when the kids weren't around to "help". The cat still managed to knock it over because he kept trying to kiss it {boy did he get a shock when it came crashing down}. I ended up semi cheating by using the centre piece to balance the bottom circle. It did stand without the piece there, but not long enough for me to grab a photo.

Rainbow smoke stack tower using large grimms rainbow

If you have the patience of a saint and a lot of kid free time then I dare you to try this rainbow smoke tower that @love_of_wooden_toys first created. This one is Jana's, she's hands down the queen of rainbow stacking. I seriously don't know how she did it. There's a sneaky tip on her post here though if you're game enough to try it.


Grimms rainbow animal habitat sorting

We often use the grimms rainbow to sort habitats for our animal figurines. The easiest way to do this is by stacking the different pieces into green {land/grass}, orange {desert/Africa} and blue {ocean} towers to differentiate between types of habitats like the photo above. It could also be done by using the pieces to make coloured rings and put the relevant animals inside the rings.
Grimms rainbow spiral colour sorting

The Grimms rainbow is great for colour sorting other smaller objects. I made this colour spiral with the rainbow and gave my big girl a basket of small toys and she colour sorted them all into the correct colour arch. For this one we only used 6 of the 12 pieces, however I've also seen colour sorts done by joining the 2 dark red pieces together, green pieces together and blue pieces together to make different colour circles for sorting. For more colour sorting ideas for toddlers check out this post.

My 2yr old made these colour sorted stacks all by herself without any direction. She was playing with the rainbow arches on the floor and next minute I looked up and she had successfully colour sorted and balanced each stack. Not going to lie, I was super excited when she did this!

My eldest made these colour sorted circles with the arches and then balanced them upright. There was so much problem solving and critical thinking that went into making these as well as colour and size sorting. These are the same type of circles I've seen people use for colour sorting when they're laid flat on the ground.


The Grimms Rainbow is more than just a rainbow and a stacking toy, with a little imagination it can be transformed into so many other objects. Ever wanted to be a mermaid? Now you can. Can a rainbow be turned into an animal? Yes, lots of them!

One of the first things we did with the rainbow when we got it was turn my then 4 year old into a mermaid. If your child is small enough {and will willingly lay down still} the rainbow pieces can be stacked over their legs to create a rainbow mermaid tail. We had a little fun with some props and took some photos of her as a mermaid to show her friends at kindy.

The kids toys can get in on the rainbow tail action too with this criss-cross rainbow tail. To make it criss-cross the rainbow pieces from the smallest up until the dark orange piece, over the top of a stuffed toy or doll. Then put the largest red piece straight across at the top. Make sure the top half of the toy or doll is sitting out above the tail.

Animals made from the grimms large rainbow. Crab, elephant, octopus, fish, dinosaur, owl, bird, koala and many others

Another really fun way to play with the Grimms Rainbow is to make rainbow animals. Hands down the best Instagram account I've found when it comes to making animals is The Way We Play. Gemma is a genius! The majority of her grimms rainbow animals are made using only the large grimms rainbow with the occasional addition of grapat rings or food pouch lids. The 12 above are only some of the many animals she's created, follow her on Instagram to see the rest of the menagerie.

We use our Grimms Rainbow as part of small world play set ups all the time. Sometimes we use all the pieces as an actual rainbow backdrop and other times we use certain colours to represent hills, tunnels or the sunset.

This is an example of where the girls used part of the rainbow as a tunnel for their train track. Not the best of photos because both the toddler and cat were doing their best to destroy it as quickly as their sister was setting it up. It was fun while it lasted though.

Grimms rainbow basic circle ball run

This is a really simple way to turn the rainbow into a circular ball run. Roll a small ball or marble along the gap between the pieces and it will spiral around til the end. If you search #grimmsmarblerun on Instagram you'll find heaps of ball run ideas using the Grimms Rainbow from super simple ideas through to mega elaborate ones that incorporate other items like the building boards and semi circles.


If you want to make it even easier to recreate some of these play ideas at home then download my Rainbow Play Ideas PDF here for only a few dollars. I've put together 40 different play idea photos into a ready to print PDF file that you can print off and laminate at home. The PDF includes some exclusive play ideas not shown in this blog post.

Once laminated, cut the pages into individual photos and use as play ideas flash cards, or use a keyring carabiner to create a flap book to look through for ideas. These are great to use at home, in a daycare, kindy or classroom to inspire lots of open ended rainbow play.

buy my rainbow play ideas pdf here

Please note the PDF book does not include all images shown in this post as some images included in this post are owned by others and have kindy been published here with permission. The PDF does however include some other ideas which aren't shown in this post. All images within the paid PDF are copyright and can not be shared, published or sold on any platform.

50 plus Grimms rainbow play ideas for kids and adults

Now you've got a huge taste of ideas to make with the Grimms Rainbow, let me excite you even more by saying there are so many more ideas out there. Regardless of whether you want to stack, build or create with the rainbow, if you search #grimmsrainbow or #createwithgrimms on Instagram you'll find loads more inspiration. If you want to follow specific Instagram accounts who are awesome at Grimms rainbow creations, I suggest you check out @playroomstories,, @familyinmissio, @_simply_bea_, @grimms_creations, @woodentoyplay and also @wander.mi.trio {who does awesome stacks with the smaller rainbows too}.


Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. Any images featured that aren't my own have been shared with express permission.

Would you like to comment?

  1. This is great! Can you make a printable list? My son does good with idea books and id like to print them out for him.

    1. Hi Sarah, I have thought about it. It's currently on my never ending to do list, so not sure exactly when I'll have something put together sorry.

  2. Oh I love this. I was thinking of gifting one of these!