1 Turn trash into treasure. Periodically add discarded materials, such as paper-towel tubes, small boxes, and yarn, for children to use in the manipulatives area. Children can use the materials for sorting, classifying, and patterning.
2 Create a "snip-and-cut" area. Fill an empty water table or plastic tub with interesting scraps of paper and foil. Tie a few pairs of safety scissors to the legs or sides of the table to create an area where children can practice cutting. The snipped contents can be used for collage and sorting activities.
3 Offer plastic (PVC) plumbing pipe. Children can easily screw pipes and joints together to create a variety of structures. The beads from your bead-stringing collection can be used to explore how far and fast the beads will roll through the tubing sculpture.
4 Emphasize tactile exploration. Add a pretty pillowcase or feely box to your manipulatives area so children can try to put together a familiar puzzle (inside the pillowcase or box) by touch rather than sight.
5 Suggest back-to-back building. While two children sit back to back at the manipulatives table, give them identical building sets to work with. Ask each to build without looking at what the other is doing. Later, ask them to share their projects.
6 Invite children to listen and do. Suggest that children sit back to back with a matching set of beads and strings. One child can name each bead that he adds to the string while the other child tries to follow the same pattern. Later, suggest children compare strings. Are they the same? What happened?
7 Wrap it up. Cut squares from several varieties of wrapping paper. Children will enjoy matching and sorting the patterns and using the squares as mats or bases for their constructions in the manipulatives area.
8 Include some light and shine. Add aluminum foil for children to use to wrap blocks and building toys. What happens when they shine flashlights on their structures?
9 Fill it up! Use masking or colored tape to outline simple open shapes (rectangles, triangles, circles) on the manipulatives table. Invite children to fill up the area of the shapes with parquetry, attribute, or table blocks to explore the math concept of area.
10 Explore places and maps. Attach simple maps to the manipulatives table, or use tape to make a street pattern. Children can use the maps along with small building blocks, toy cars, and toy people to create a model town.