Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inexpensive Manipulative

Manipulatives and toys don't have to be expensive. Often, the simpler the better, and even more often, the most inexpensive items can be the ones that thoroughly enchant children and provide them with endless hours of imaginative play. 

The best example...and empty cardboard box, of any size, but especially one large enough for a child to get into.

I had noticed on Pinterest a mom took toilet paper tubes, cut them in half, and had her toddler place wiffle balls on top of them. 

So when I saw a bag of smaller wiffle balls on 70% clearance in Target's dollar section, I went ahead and grabbed them for .90. These looked to be just the right size to fit into an egg carton. 

They were. Actually, the little ones had to work at getting them in and out, and began to use some logic/reasoning skills when they realized they could dig their little finger into the holes for leverage. Excellent for teaching 1-1 correspondence even though they aren't aware that they are learning that while doing it.

But then I thought of the next older child in our group, and thought I'd do similar to an Easter activity I have where I placed colored dots in the bottom of the egg carton and the children matched the plastic eggs to the color dots. Coloring the balls was overwhelming, so I decided to just add a circle of color with my Sharpies to up the difficulty.

Then I thought of the preschoolers who are working on 11-20 at the moment, and hated to waste that 18 hole carton for I added 1-18 to the balls and the carton for them to number match and work on number recognition, number order and left-right convention. When we get to number words, I'll add stickers to the bottom over the written numbers for matching.
Mr. G 33m
So this very simple, inexpensive, throw-together game, now serves every age from infant to preschooler. It has three levels of difficulty built into it. Surprisingly, even though it's been a free-choice activity for everyone for a week now, all of them are still using it regularly.

It is also serving the purpose of teaching the littlest ones not to throw inside. Because if they do throw the balls, then it gets put away.

Miss N 18m & Miss H 13m
I always open it so that the balls are on the left and the holes are on the right, even for the little ones, to reinforce the left-right convention.

I will add that I had several different types of egg cartons to choose from, and this type was the best one for being able to easily have the balls available and contained in the lid, Dutch Farms brand. Other ones had a  lot more inserts in the lid that made it inconvenient. I just turn it upside down to open and the balls are on the lid. 

For the older children, I make sure to mix the balls up well before giving to them so they aren't perfectly pre-aligned.

Tags: infant, toddler, ball, wiffle, counting, manipulative, fine, motor, color, matching, number, order, egg carton, free, inexpensive, cheap, home-made, home, made, recycle, recycling, game, learning, tool, 1-1 correspondence, 

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