Selecting and Using Manipulatives

Published 8/31/2020

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.

 Sorting 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

10 for 10: Ten Activities to Occupy Toddlers for Ten Minutes, Part 1

BY SHAUNA SMITH DUTY
Published 9/7/2020

Toddlers are busy little people, working hard to explore their new world and learn everything they can. They move from one challenge to another in a matter of minutes and require a great deal of chasing, engaging, cleaning up after, and redirection.

These ten creative activities will keep toddlers occupied for at least ten minutes at a time, and they are great for encouraging both an increase in their attention span and developing motor skills.

1. Sorting Machine. Most toddlers love to sort things. For a toddler who enjoys organizing, provide a few handfuls of multi-colored, O-shaped cereal and a muffin pan. With a little direction, she'll sort the cereal by color into the muffin pan cups and enjoy a healthy snack. For a non-edible activity, use blocks or colored manipulatives.

2. Future Picasso. A bowl of soft, chopped fruit with a little cream cheese and graham crackers is great for an entertaining, edible art project, First, spread the cream cheese on the graham cracker. Then have the toddler press fruit chunks into the cream cheese to create a nutritious work of art. You may just inspire the world's next Picasso.

3. Toy Rotation. A bin filled with toys can be stashed away for months in a closet or cupboard. When the forgotten toys are reintroduced, toddlers feel they have rediscovered them.

4. Shake It Up. Place toys or treats inside clear containers with the lids attached. Children love to shake and rattle things, and when a toddler realizes a treat is inside, the activity will be even more appealing.

5. Water Colors. Add a drop of blue food coloring to a shallow wading pool or sand and water table. Toss in some sea creature toys. Fora change of theme, use green food coloring and jungle creature toys. It makes a great outdoor activity on warm days. Remember to closely supervise any waterplay.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

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Shauna Smith Duty is a freelance writer and home-
schooling mother of two in Roanoke, Texas. She writes activities, crafts, and parenting articles for websites, magazines, and newsletters. Visit www.shaunasmithduty.com to find out about her latest projects.

 

10 for 10: Ten Activities to Occupy Toddlers for Ten Minutes, Part 2

BY SHAUNA SMITH DUTY
Published 9/17/2020

Continuing from last week's post: Toddlers are busy little people, working hard to explore their new world and learn everything they can. They move from one challenge to another in a matter of minutes and require a great deal of chasing, engaging, cleaning up after, and redirection.

These ten creative activities will keep toddlers occupied for at least ten minutes at a time, and they are great for encouraging both an increase in their attention span and developing motor skills.

6. Paper Play. Consider allowing toddlers to wrap themselves in toilet paper and pretend they are snowmen, or to decorate the room with toilet paper streamers. You may want to use the game as a potty training introduction or celebration of a potty success.

7. Lid-Le Ideas. Try presenting toddlers with a tub of plastic containers and their detached lids. Children can find and affix the matching lids to each container. Cleaned and dried plastic bottles like those used for condiments (ketchup and mustard), and grated cheese have distinctive lids that are easily identified and attached.

8. Roughin’ It. Turn over a table or gather chairs into a circle in the center of the room, then drape blankets over them to construct tents. Flashlights and a non-sticky snack can create a fun
environment while you read a story or sing songs.

9. Obstacle Course. Use nap mats on their sides, propped against chairs or tables, to form walls for a maze. Pillows can be hopped over, crawled on, or used as steppingstones in an obstacle course. Play Follow the Leader in the obstacle course, changing
the leader each time you reach the beginning. Encourage the children to vocalize - can they travel as kittens, as cows, as racecars?

10. Footsteps. Place a small amount of washable paint on a pie tin or sturdy paper plate. Encourage the toddler to step into the paint with her bare foot, or feet, and walk across banner paper. She can even have a different color for each foot. This activity can be confined to a wading pool or tarp to ensure caster clean-up.

Conclusion
With all their energy, providing constant stimulation for toddlers can be difficult. These inexpensive and easy ideas will afford early childhood educators a few minutes of downtime while encouraging children to use their minds and their bodies to
explore, play, and learn in their new world.

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Shauna Smith Duty is a freelance writer and home-
schooling mother of two in Roanoke, Texas. She writes activities, crafts, and parenting articles for websites, magazines, and newsletters. Visit www.shaunasmithduty.com to find out about her latest projects.

 

What Children Can’t Do… Yet, Part 1

BY Dan Hodgins
Published 9/24/2020

When working with children, keep in mind what they are ready for and what they are not; what they can do and what they are unable to do… yet.

I can’t share.
Children use possession of objects as a device to understand autonomy. Just as babbling comes before talking, so owning comes before sharing. To share fully, a child must fully possess.

I can’t say “I’m sorry,” and mean it.
Saying “I’m sorry” has little meaning to the young child. To say “I’m sorry” and understand what you are saying, you must also be able to understand how the other person feels.

I can’t remember what you told me.
Most children remember only what is important to them. A child may not remember that you just told them to walk, and not run, while indoors. Adults often forget that children have trouble remembering.

I can’t focus on more than one task at a time.
“Pick up your toys, put on your shoes, and wash your face; we are going out to play.” This command has three more tasks than a young child is able to focus on. Most young children will remember the last task or the task most important to them. With the above command, all the child may focus on is that he or she is going out to play.

I can’t understand negative commands.
If a child reaches to put his or her finger in an electric wall outlet and you say, “don’t”, the child is confused because he or she doesn’t know how to reverse their action. Saying “Pull your hand back; that’s dangerous.” gives the child a positive action to take.

I can’t measure.
When you want a child to pour a glass of milk or juice and you hand him or her a full pitcher, expect the child to pour all the milk into the glass, even if it pours all over the floor or table. Young children do not understand that all of the milk will not fit into the glass and so keep pouring until it’s too late.

I can’t tell you the truth when you set me up.
If you see a child do something inappropriate, and you ask if he or she has done it, the child will probably deny it. Don’t ask the child if you know what happened. That only sets them up for failure.

I can’t sit still for very long.
Young children are often told to sit still, while their bodies are telling them to move. When the large muscles in a preschooler’s arms and legs are growing rapidly, they cry out for exercise. As a result, preschoolers feel a need to move about.

I can’t play with other children until I am ready.
Children go through different stages of social interaction. If allowed to grow at their own pace, they will begin to interact with other children when they are ready.

I can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
When a child has a bad dream, it is very real to him or her. Telling a child not to be a “baby” does not help. Playing fantasy is real for the child and very important for control and development.

I can’t express myself in words very well.
Children resort to physical means of communication because they don’t have the verbal skills to express frustration and other feelings. You can help by giving the child words to use.

I can’t wait.
Try not to put children in situations where they have to wait for long periods of time. Waiting often makes taking turns difficult.

I don’t understand right and wrong.
Because young children don’t understand cause and effect relationships, they can’t fully understand right and wrong. A young child does not understand intentional versus unintentional actions, can only see issues from his or her own perspective, and views issues as black and white.

I can’t be ready until I’m ready.
Children all grow and develop at different rates. Don’t compare children or force them to do things before they are ready.


Dan Hodges writes from Flint, Michigan, where he is coordinator of the child development program of Mott Community College.

What Children Can’t Do… Yet
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