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Manipulative Toys

Manipulative Toys

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Manipulative Toy

What is a manipulative toy?  Manipulative toys help children to improve their motor skills.  Kids use these toys to learn about their relationships with the physical world and how they can interact with it.  During constructive play with manipulative toys, a child is stimulating vital nerve pathways that will help them to develop essential motor and cognitive skills. 

A non-exhaustive list of manipulative toys.  There are TONS of different manipulative toys that you can choose for a child.  Probably the best known and most used are wooden blocks. Children love to build, stack and knock them down.  Another style of toy that is exceptionally popular with kids can be found in just about every preschool and doctor's office: the bead maze.  Children tend to play with these with an amazing intensity for a surprisingly long time.  Other manipulatives include lacing toys, stacking toys, sorting toys, and pounding toys.   For slightly older children consider toys that promote imaginative play, like a play kitchen, dress up costumes, dollhouses or toy vehicle sets.  Basically, a manipulative toy is any toy that gets little fingers and brains actively working together.

How do I choose? Choosing the right toys isn't always easy.  For the most value for your money, choose a toy that is age appropriate.  Preferably, the child is at the early stage of being interested.  The first toys that are appropriate for babies are rattles and graspers. When a child learns to walk, they will become interested in pull along or push along toys.  About this same time, your child may become interested in lacing, stacking, sorting, and pounding toys. Always check the minimum age recommendations on these toys (found in the detailed descriptions on each product page), to make sure that the toys are safe for your child.  Wooden unit blocks (also known as kindergarten size) tend to appeal to children ages 18 months right on up to 10 years old.  Table top size blocks may present a choking hazard for younger children and are often too small to appeal anyway.  These tend to be better for children ages 4 and up.  As children grow older, their interests tend to get more complex, and tend more toward fine motor skills or games which require more imagination.  At ages 3-4 and up, you may consider adding kitchen sets, art easels, weaving looms, tool benches, and more advanced toys to a child's environment.   

Another important consideration to take into account is the amount of space you would like to devote to any given toy.  Manipulative toys like the bead mazes come in many different shapes, sizes and varieties.  To quickly assess which size would be most appropriate, ask yourself these questions.  Is this one of many toys?  Is it to be a focal point of the room?  Do you want one that is fixed to a wall? Small bead mazes have the advantage of being portable.  Kids love them.  They can go on the floor, in the car, on a table, or over to a friend's house.Do you have more space?  Consider a bead maze table or a play cube.  Bead maze tables take up a little more room, and aren't portable, however, kids find them easy to focus on.  Children will tend to gravitate to the bead maze table.  Play cubes take the concept of the bead maze table one step further.  They tend to have activities on the top and all four sides.  These are reasonably large items to put in a room, but they pack a LOAD of playing potential!  Another way to keep a manipulative in a child's focus is to mount it on the wall.  Wall mounted manipulative toys have the advantage of not taking up a large amount of room, and they never need to be cleaned up!

When choosing a manipulative toy for a child, remember to choose one that is age appropriate, one that the child is likely to be interested in, and one that fits your space.  Of course, just like all toys, also choose your toys to last.  A few really great toys are sure to capture a child's attention!