Selecting and Using Manipulatives
1. Invest in good quality materials. It may seem like a lot of money to spend upfront, but the investment will more than pay for itself as your manipulatives withstand use by young children day after day after day.
2. Choose well-constructed materials, ones with pieces that fit together well and are easy to manipulate.
3. Make a commitment to eventually buy enough equipment for each child to have his or her own set. Being patient and waiting or a turn are difficult for toddlers. Provide enough blocks, beads, etc. for each child to work successfully.
4. Before you buy materials, check for overall safety. Are there any sharp edges? Are the pieces too big for a toddler to swallow or choke on? Also, be sure to check the materials in your room periodically to make sure they remain safe.
5. Select equipment that can withstand a lot of washing. Paperboard products are difficult to clean. Wood and plastic equipment is better suited for this age group.
6. Limit the number of manipulative toys that are available at any one time. Too many choices are confusing for young children and can make it more difficult for them to choose an activity.
7. Just sitting on the floor next to toddlers as they work with manipulatives can encourage them. Refrain from directing their play or asking too many questions. Let them explore the manipulatives on their own. As you watch them work, however, be ready to step in and offer a little assistance if their frustration level gets too high.
8. One way to encourage the use of a variety of table toys is to set out just one toy at a table. Sit with your children as they experiment and figure out what to do. As their interest wanes and they go on to other things, put that table toy away and get out another one.
9. You may find that at the end of a play time, several different sets of manipulatives have gotten mixed up. Make the cleanup of the toys a game, and have your children help you sort them.
10. Involve your children in the care of the manipulatives. When it is time to wash them, let the children help. Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and let the children scrub and clean the toys.
1. Sorting toys are very easy to make. You can use an assortment of almost any small item and a container such as a basket, a plastic jar, or a box. For safety, check that any items you use are too big for a toddler to swallow or choke on.
2. Give each toddler his or her own container and several items for sorting. Sit at the table with your children, with your own container. Play alongside the children, putting one item at a time into your container and talking about what you and they are doing. This activity, putting in items one at a time, is the very first toddler sorting activity.
3. Toddlers love dropping clothespins into a plastic container or moving pompoms from one container to another with kitchen tongs.
4. A basket is great fun for sorting. Your children will enjoy putting objects into the basket and taking them out again.
5. Cut a square hole in the plastic lid of a large empty container. Show your toddlers how to push small blocks through the hole.
6. For older toddlers, you can make a sorting box by cutting a square hole and a round hole in the lid of a shoebox. Put the lid on the box and let your children put empty thread spools through the round hole in the lid and square blocks through the square hole.
7. Have each child take off one shoe and put it in the middle of the room. When all the shoes are piled up, let your children sort through them to find their own shoes.
8. Put out a variety of items in big and little sizes: socks, plates, and books. Let your children put the big items in a big basket and the little items in a little basket.
9. Collect three toy cars and three stuffed toy animals. Mix up the cars and animals, and then have your children sort them into two separate piles. This works with any two kinds of toys or materials you have. As your children become more skilled at this, you can increase the difficulty by having them sort two similar items such as toy cars and toy trucks.
10. Toddlers love this color sorting activity. Set out two sheets of construction paper: one red and one blue. Find three red toys and three blue toys. Let your children place the red toys on the red construction paper and the blue toys on the blue paper. Help the children say the color of each toy as they put it on the paper. Repeat with any other colors you wish to introduce to your children.
SOURCE: "Terrific Tips for Toddler Teachers" by Gayle Bittinger, Mary Ann Hodge, and Jenny Cooper Rose.