“The Manips”

“Play with me! Play with me!” the colorful materials tucked away in organized bins appear to call to the young children every morning. While the classroom features at least five open centers at all times, the manipulatives area is always the hub of the room. Each morning you find the carpet enclosed by these materials completely filled with busy children and bins of toys spread everywhere. Teachers barely have room to join in the fun!

Building my own world…

In the manipulatives center, children find delight in building different towers and castles, constructing different patterns, and experimenting with how they can fit pieces of different shapes and sizes together. Sometimes the students enjoy building independently, while other times they work as a group to build the tallest tower using the materials available. Provided with a wide variety of materials, the design possibilities are truly endless for these creative and imaginative individuals. Some of their favorite objects to play with in this center include magnetic tiles, peg boards, and combs.


Magnetic Tiles                                 Peg Boards                                    Combs

The students’ persistent interest in these manipulative materials intrigued me. While the number of students at stations such as the library, writing, and block centers fluctuates from day to day, the manipulatives center is always lively. Noticing the amount of time the children spend experimenting with these materials, I began to consider the advantages these hours of play afford the children. This led me to investigate the question: “How does playing with manipulatives benefit young learners?”

…prepares me for success in the future.

Providing access to objects that children can physically manipulate is essential to the development of their understanding of the physical world. When children play with blocks, magnets, and other materials, they construct spatial-mathematical reasoning, develop skills related to planning and executing, strengthen their problem-solving abilities, explore the properties of the objects they work with, and observe and experience magnetic and gravitational forces. Therefore, children build their foundation for the study of STEM disciplines through these captivating play experiences. Every time a child plays with the magnetic tiles, they physically experience the behaviors of positive and negative forces. Similarly, whenever a resounding CRASH is heard throughout the classroom, a child has witnessed the force of gravity acting on their once majestic tower. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of manipulatives in fostering the development of these STEM-related skills and understandings, check out the article Children’s Exploration of Physical Phenomena During Object Play by clicking here.

Miss H and “The Manips”

As a person with an inconcealable passion for math, I highly anticipate incorporating manipulatives into my future classroom. Why? They’re fun and I want my students to find the same joy in math and problem solving that I do! Many students who dislike math develop a phobia for the subject in elementary school, which makes my position as an early childhood educator all the more important. If my students associate math with positive, enjoyable, playful experiences, they will be more likely to express interest and feel confident in the subject as they progress through subsequent grades. Physically working with these concrete objects will also provide them with a true understanding of foundational math concepts that they may build on throughout their life. Below, you can see some of the manipulatives I hope to offer my students.


    Linking Cubes                          Fraction Tiles                  Multiplication Cards

Begin considering all of the fun you can bring into your classroom by exploring the variety of math manipulatives here. Who knows, maybe you will resolve your own math phobia!

· For Further Reading ·

Solis, S. L., Curtis, K. N., & Hayes-Messinger, A. (2017). Children’s exploration of physical phenomena during object play. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(1), 122-140.