Manipulative Activities for Children

by Tania K. Cowling

Preschoolers can develop abstract thinking skills when they use tools to help solve problems. No need to cash out your bank accounts to buy fancy learning toys -- simple objects around the house can teach amazing concepts. Use your creativity to add to a list of ways your kiddo can use manipulative items for learning activities.

Take out the clothespins or purchase them at your local dollar store. Mark each pin with numerals from one to 12. Grab a ruler and challenge your child to clip the appropriate number clothespin to the matching inch number on the ruler. As a variation, draw dots on the clothespins and as your preschooler counts the dots, he can match it to the number on the ruler. It’s okay if he needs your help!

Sometimes tools help to simplify work. Show your child how magnets attract anything metal. Gather items around the house, such as paper clips, bolts, coins and large screws. Take a cupful of metal objects and spill them on the floor. Let your child use a magnet to clean up the metal mess with this entertaining manipulative game.

Preschoolers are too young to understand measuring with rulers and tape measures, but measuring with a manipulative is much easier to grasp this concept. For example, use wooden craft sticks for a simple measuring tool. As an example, ask your little learner to measure the distance from his chair to the wall. Have him lay down craft sticks end-to-end from one object to the next. Count how many sticks it takes. Brainstorm other objects that can be used for measurement. Crayons, straws and blocks are a few possibilities.

This activity teaches your little scholar about estimation and prediction. Float a polystyrene foam food tray in a basin of water. Bring out some small plastic figures, counting cubes or other manipulative toys. Ask your kiddo how many objects the tray will hold before it sinks and then test her prediction. Try again with another choice of objects.

Take a small brown bag and add several small props that will help your child to build a story. Engage your preschooler in making up a tale by pulling out props from the bag one by one. How creative can he get? When he finishes, put back the props and take your turn. Enjoy bonding together and praise your child for such an entertaining event.

About the Author

Tania K. Cowling is a former teacher, a published book author and award-winning freelance writer. Cowling is also certified in medical records technology. She has published many articles online and in regional magazines across the country.

Photo Credits

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