What are Manipulative Toys?
Manipulative play has been around forever. Babies and toddlers love to explore their environment with objects. They start by manipulating items to explore their senses and see what happens with forced movements. This is an excellent way to develop motor skills and self-confidence.
Toddlers can learn about cause and effect while simultaneously being introduced to decision-making.
As your child gets older, they’ll use different toys to express feelings and ideas. They may want to push buttons on toys, roll balls, pull ropes, or even open boxes and books.
All these activities are considered manipulative play because they involve the manipulation of an object.
What is Considered Manipulative Toys?
Manipulative toys are any toy that allows a child to move or create an action. Some examples include wooden blocks, dolls, cars, trucks, and trains.
These toys are great because they stimulate the imagination and teach young kids about cause and effect.
The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFC) recommends having only one toy at a time when introducing manipulatives to preschoolers.
If possible, keep small toys from your toddler’s reach until four. Once a toddler reaches this age, they can better handle more objects.
What are Examples of Manipulatives?
Here are some manipulative toys that are popular among toddlers:
Wooden Blocks and Building Toys: A block is a simple shape that is easy for children to grasp. Blocks encourage creative thinking, problem-solving, and fine motor skills.
Dolls and Stuffed Animals: Dolls allow children to pretend they’re someone else by assuming caretaker responsibilities. By dressing, bathing, and feeding dolls, they become manipulative toys.
Cars and Trucks: Car and truck toys encourage creativity and fine motor skills.
Painting and Art Supplies: Art supplies allow kids to experiment with color and materials. Along with creative expression, painting encourages visual development.
Tinker Toys: Tinker toys are educational toys that encourage creativity. They encourage kids to think outside the box.
Paper Plates, Plastic Cups, and Spoons: These items can be used for pretend play. Your little one can build houses, cook meals, and do many other things!
Puzzles: Puzzles are great for teaching logic and reasoning skills.
Checkout our article: 9 Amazing Benefits of Jigsaw Puzzles for Toddlers
LEGO Bricks: LEGOs are sturdy pieces that are easy for children to assemble. They provide hours of entertainment and problem-solving.
Check out our article: What is the difference between DUPLO and LEGO?
Beads and Yarn: Yarn and beads are great for fine motor skills while practicing counting, sorting, or making jewelry.
Puppets: Hand and finger puppets are excellent tools for pretend play. They let young kids act out various situations from real life or imagination.
What is Manipulative Play for Kids?
Manipulative play is when a child uses their hands to manipulate different objects to learn what they are and understand how to use them.
Paintbrushes, blocks, books, scissors, doll accessories, and construction toys are excellent examples of manipulative toys.
There are several benefits to allowing manipulative play:
- It helps toddlers develop confidence and independence.
- It boosts self-esteem.
- It develops self-control. When children control their actions, they can focus better during tasks.
- It promotes cognitive development. Through repetitive play, children begin to recognize patterns and organize information.
- It improves coordination.
- It helps children learn spatial awareness. Spatial awareness can improve performance on standardized tests.
- It promotes empathy. When children learn to empathize with others, they learn to take the perspective of others.
- It helps children gain social skills.
- It helps children form memories.
- It introduces the qualities of teamwork.
What Activities Promote Manipulative Play?
Playtime is one of your child’s favorite times, but it is not just physical activity. It’s an experience that encourages your child to interact with you and other people.
Parents often underestimate the importance of play. However, studies show that play is vital to children’s development.
There are plenty of ways you can help promote manipulative play:
- Let your child pick out their toys. Children need variety and options when choosing toys. Allow them to pick out toys that interest them.
- Make sure your child’s toys are age appropriate.
- Use your child’s interests as inspiration. Find out what your child enjoys doing. Then, look for related toys that match his interests. For example, if your child loves dinosaurs, look for toys that feature dinosaurs. Find books, movies, and even stuffed animals that depict dinosaurs.
- Encourage creativity. Encouraging creativity is a great way to promote manipulative play. Give your child permission to try things that are out of the ordinary. Let them create anything they want. Make it a point to talk to your child after using a toy to engage in communication and storytelling.
What Age Does Manipulative Play Start?
Children should begin using manipulative toys between 16 and 24 months old.
By three years, children will have a basic understanding of cause and effect, following directions, and playing independently with adult supervision.
New age-appropriate manipulatives can be introduced as toddlers continue improving their skills and knowledge.