When teaching kindergarteners, it's essential to keep the learning fresh, fun, developmentally appropriate, and hands-on. Incorporating these 14 must-have manipulatives for kindergarten is a great way to make learning exciting for your students while helping them make real-world connections.
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Must-Have Literacy Manipulatives
1. Letter Tiles
Letter tiles are so versatile and easy to add to any literacy activity, game, or center. They are great for helping students practice letter and letter sound identification. They can also be used to differentiate vowels and consonants, as the letter tiles are different colors for each type of letter.
You can call out a letter and have the students find the letter tile and say the letter name and sound. To practice vowels and consonants, ask them to find a vowel or a consonant. After they find it, they can say the letter name and sound.
You can even use letter tiles to compare the attributes of letters, learning about letters with straight lines, curved lines, etc. Students can use letter tiles to practice spelling their name. As the year goes on, they can use letter tiles to practice spelling sight words, CVC words, color words, etc.
2. Letter Beads
If you're looking for a hands-on way for students to learn their letters while also getting some fine motor practice in, letter beads are the way to go! Students can use letter beads to put letters together to spell their name, color words, number words, sight words, etc.
You could also have students string all of the vowels together or practice finding letters that have curves or straight lines and string them together. Another way to use these would be to say a letter sound and have the students find the correct letter bead and add it to their string.
3. Magnetic Letters
Magnetic letters are another must-have manipulative for kindergarten. They can be used to make building words fun and hands-on for kids. They are also perfect for identifying sounds in words. You can use a letter sound mat to practice identifying the beginning sounds in words.
Magnetic letters are also great for practicing word families and rhyming words. Students can switch out the beginning sound to build new word family words that rhyme. You can even practice phoneme substitution by using change the sound mats. Students will change a sound in the word and replace the magnetic letter to build a new word.
Must-Have Math Manipulatives
4. Color Links
Color links are a great manipulative to keep on hand for kindergarteners. They are perfect for practicing color recognition, making patterns, or simply to use during free play time. They help students improve their fine motor skills and work on problem-solving skills too.
Students can also practice counting and one-to-one correspondence by counting and putting the links together, such as with this Count and Link activity. You can grab this activity for free by filling out the form below.
5. 2-Colored Counters
2-colored counters are an essential math manipulative for kindergarten. These counters allow students to solve addition and subtraction problems and model number pairs. The different colors allow them to see a visual representation of the 2 different numbers coming together or being taken apart.
You can also use these counters as game markers for games such as Bingo. Students can even form and build numbers with these in a hands-on way.
6. Pattern Blocks
Pattern blocks are a kid-favorite manipulative for kindergarten. They can be used to identify shapes and discuss their attributes. You can also use them to practice sorting by shape and color.
Students love using pattern blocks to build and create designs. They are perfect for a free play activity or creative building station. Students can work individually or in partners to make creations using pattern blocks.
7. 3D Shape Blocks
Having a stash of 3D shape blocks on hand is important in kindergarten. These 3D shape blocks are helpful when learning about 3D shapes and their attributes in kindergarten. They also make comparing and contrasting 2D and 3D shapes more concrete.
Students can experiment with 3D shape blocks to see which shapes stack, roll, and stack and roll. These are also great for building or adding to a free play center.
8. Plastic Math Cubes
Plastic math cubes are a must when it comes to manipulatives for kindergarten. Students can use these cubes for counting, building, making patterns, making 5 or 10, solving addition and subtraction problems, and more.
One of my favorite ways to use plastic math cubes is as a game marker for activities such as Roll, Count, and Cover. Students will roll a dot cube, count the number of dots, identify the number on the mat, and cover it with a math cube. This can be done to practice number identification up to 12, one more, and one less.
9. Dot Cubes
Every kindergarten classroom needs a good supply of dot cubes! The foam dot cubes are great for kindergarten because they are a little bit bigger and make less noise. Dot cubes can be used for a variety of games, activities, and even for number sense and problem-solving practice.
Students can roll a dot cube and write the number represented. They can roll 2 dot cubes and write the addition or subtraction sentence to match and then solve. To practice comparing numbers, they can roll 2 dot cubes and determine which is greater than, less than, or equal to.
Must-Have Fine Motor and Classroom Manipulatives
10. Mini Erasers
No kindergarten classroom is complete without a supply of mini erasers! You can find variety packs of mini erasers on Amazon or different seasonal and themed packs at your local dollar store.
Mini erasers are fun to use as classroom rewards, incentives, and of course as erasers. However, there are so many fun ways to use mini erasers in the classroom. They are great for modeling number problems, counting sets, or even as game markers. You can even practice building letters and numbers using mini eraser mats.
11. Play Dough
Another must-have manipulative for kindergarten is play dough. Play dough is great for students' fine motor skills and is fun for them to use to practice skills and create with. Students can use play dough to form letters using letter mats and even numbers.
They can use play dough to practice forming their name, shapes, or even to practice counting. To practice counting, they can form play dough balls to match a number card or a number you call out.
12. Wikki Stix
Wikki Stix aren't just for party favors, but they make great classroom manipulatives too! Students can use Wikki Stix to shape, mold, and create letters, numbers, words, shapes, patterns, and more.
These are great for sensory learning and keeping your students on task. Plus, they're mess-free, every kindergarten teacher's dream.
13. Bingo Dabbers
Bingo dabbers are an exciting and colorful manipulative for kindergarten. Not only are they fun for art projects and creativity, they're perfect for learning activities and strengthening fine motor muscles. Use them to dab the shape of a letter, number, word, or a shape.
You can even use them to complete no prep bingo dabber math and literacy activities. Adding a bingo dabber to any activity makes it instantly more fun for kids.
14. White Boards and Dry Eraser Markers
Individual lined white boards and dry eraser markers with erasers are a must-have in any kindergarten classroom. Students can use these to show their work during a math or literacy lesson by writing numbers, number sentences, letters, words, etc.
Adding a white board and dry erase marker makes practicing skills more engaging for students than using plain paper and pencil. These are super handy to use during carpet time or small groups.
I hope these 14 must-have manipulatives for kindergarten have helped you get some new ideas on ways to make learning more fun and hands-on in your classroom. Let me know which of these manipulatives you love most in the comments!