Do you homeschool or add after school enrichment activities to your child's day? Are you looking for supplies on a budget? Look no further! Here are five of my favorite manipulatives for early learning. It took me about an hour to make all five, and the only supply I purchased specifically for this project was magnets. I've mentioned most of these at one point or another in my Tot School and Tot Preschool posts, and I thought it would be nice to post the specific details in one place for anyone interested in the details.
1. Milk Cap Alphabet
These are self explanatory. I washed and saved milk caps until I had enough to make the full alphabet. I wrote each letter on a cap with a Sharpie. Eventually I saved enough for one set of capital letters and one of lowercase. These are great for letter matching, beginning sounds exercises, word family games and more. Even better, they can be used for more than just alphabet games. They can be sorted by color then graphed. They can be stacked. They can stand in as place markers for homemade games and much more.
2. Clothespin Alphabet
These didn't even take five minutes to make. All I did was write a letter on the head of each clothespin. This set can be used for letter matching and beginning/ending sound games, and it is great for fine motor development. My three year old needs more practice with these.
3. Pom Pom Magnets
These are probably the favorite are here. My boys, especially J-Bug who is three, could play with these every day. He loves pom poms in general, so pom poms with magnets are the bees knees to him. The benefit to using pom poms as manipulatives is the texture. The added sensory stimulation pom poms provide helps children retain what they are learning. I've seen these on many blogs. I think the original idea came from Mama Jenn.
Pom Pom Magnets are simple to put together, although out of all the manipulatives, these and the gems below were the most time consuming. All you need are pom poms, a glue gun and sticks, and craft magnets. This is our second set. For the first I used magnets that were much stronger, and the pom poms pulled apart after just a few months. This time I got smaller magnets without as much strength. (But still enough!) They are adhesive backed, but I used hot glue to reinforce the adhesion.
4. Gem Magnets
These were made exactly like the Pom Pom Magnets. I got the idea to use glass gems from 1+1+1=1. I made two sizes and vary which I use depending on the project. These are terrific for developing the pincer grasp. I use them in similar exercises as I use the Pom Pom Magnets. These ones take more strength and precision of grasp than the pom poms, so I like to alternate which I use.
5. Duplo Number Blocks
What child doesn't love building with blocks? I used a chalk marker to write the numbers 0-9 on the blocks. A Sharpie could be used for a more permanent solution. The chalk markers wipes clean. I used a wipe-able pen on purpose, because my oldest is a bit picky about playing with blocks that are marked up. ;-)
I made two sets, so my boys can make two digit numbers by place the blocks side by side. Before too long I will write out "thirty-two" on the bottom block and have JZ (who is five) find the 3 and the 2 to put together. I might end up buying another set of Duplos, because the list of possibilities with these is sky high.
Each set of manipulatives is stored in these pencil boxes. These can be found at Dollar Tree, Target, or any school supply store. I just bought two more the other day in the clearance section at my local grocery store!
Stay tuned for ideas for uses and multi sensory learning suggestions for the five simple manipulatives. I love hands on learning and have lots of ideas to share!