4 Must-Have Manipulatives for Early Learners


Manipulatives are objects used to assist learning and engage early learners in play-based and hands-on learning. They are used in classrooms from early learning all the way through high school to introduce and assist with different concepts. Some parents are unaware that they already have learning assistive manipulatives at home, while others may be looking to add to their collection of learning-based toys.

At-home manipulatives (disguised as toys) can help your child to advance more quickly in learning their letters, numbers, colors, and shapes; progress in hand/eye coordination and motor skills; and even begin to build musical aptitude. See the list below for four must-have manipulatives for early learners!


Color_blocks.jpg1. Colored alphabet/number blocks

Alphabet blocks of different colors fulfill all the manipulative requirements to be a great play-based learning tool. Early learners can develop motor skills by stacking the blocks and color discrimination by sorting by color. They can also reinforce letter, number, and color recognition.



FeelyLetters2.jpg2. Cut out letters with varying textures

Cut-out letters (wood or plastic) with varying colors and textures can be great tools to help your child grow accustomed to letter identification and shape and name formation. They can also help early learners to grow accustomed to different textures.



xylophone.jpeg3. Toy xylophone or music shakers and rattles

Encourage your child to explore different sounds and nurture musical talent by providing them with child-centered musical instruments.


Stacking_cups.jpg4. Stacking cups

Stacking cups, like those pictured below, help to develop early math skills. Through trial and error, children will stack cups largest to smallest, learn which cups fit into which and so on. Working with these fosters seriation skills (in other words, putting things in order). Filling the cups with water or sand can also help early learners to understand early science concepts like volume.


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Posted 2/9/16

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Topics: Child Care, Play, Development, Activities

Claudia Auger

Written by Claudia Auger

A volunteer for Child Care of Southwest Florida