Inexpensive Phonics Manipulatives

Alphabet/phonics/word work manipulatives add enjoyment to the process of learning to read and spell.  These hands-on materials can be found very inexpensively if you know where to look.
Phonics manipulatives

Next time you are in a dollar or discount store, be sure to check for potential manipulatives.  Don’t limit your search to just the educational supply section, also take a look in the office supply aisle, and  the dollar bin area.   The toy aisle might reveal manipulatives as well – think wooden alphabet blocks!

The blue foam letter squares, the letter magnets and the alphabet bingo game shown above were each found for only a dollar.  I’ve also found simple file folder games and sight word strips, and even the pocket chart for one dollar.  Don’t forget to look for blank sentence strips!

phonics manipulatives 2Next time you are at a yard or jumble sale,  look for old Scrabble or other word games.  Doesn’t matter if all of the pieces are there, you just need the letter tiles or word pieces.  Many times these games can be had for free.  That was the case with the wooden Scrabble tiles shown above.  I love those Scrabble tiles because they are very sturdy and will hold up to lots of word play.

Keep your eyes peeled for cheap letter & word study manipulatives – they’re out there!




Working With Math Cubes


Math cubes are such fun to play with, but how can you integrate learning with the play?  Here are a few ideas:

Simply Kinder a nice printable to help your child practice forming numbers with the cubes. There’s a cute number poem to go along with the activity as well!

The Univ. of Cambridge has a page with 40 ideas for using math cubes that fit a variety of levels.

T. G. I. F. offers a free printable that practices addition with math cubes.

Frugal Fun for Boys has a great math cube game idea – Race to fill the cup!

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My Favorite Math Manipulatives

math mani headerI’ve always believed that early math learning does not require  a formal math curriculum.  When my children were young,  we had lots of fun exploring math concepts through manipulative play.   Let me share a few of my favorite math manipulatives.

1. Every homeschool math explorer needs a balance.  With simple play, understanding of the concepts of balance, heavier, lighter, more, less and even will easily become clear.  Most of my other favorite manipulatives have been weighed in this balance.

2 & 3.  Colorful counters. The foam cubes(2) were purchased in a large pack for a dollar a great value!  I’ve also seen wooden ones that are very nice.  The rubber animal counters (3) are just plain fun.    A set of counters is great for weighing, patterning, matching,  one-to-one correspondence, sorting/classification and beginning addition/subtraction.

4. Geoboard.  Creating designs on a geoboard  requires more critical thinking than one may realize. I’ve noticed that even my middle & high school aged children have not outgrown enjoying  our set of geoboards.

math manipulatives
Math manipulatives don’t have to be expensive – start with the dollar bin at your favorite store.

5.  Pattern blocks.  I inherited these transparent pattern blocks from a teacher friend many years ago.  These are invaluable!  You can find lots of great pattern block printables that your children will enjoy for many years.

6. Dominoes.   You can make up matching games using dominoes, work on one-to-one correspondence and practice beginning addition.  Don’t forget to line them up and knock them over!

7.  Connecting cubes. These are my favorites for patterning, non-standard measurement and learning to count by fives and tens.

Looking to add to your collection of math manipulatives?   Try checking the dollar store and used homeschool materials websites.   Also, try searching for “printable math manipulatives” – there are lots available.   If you have a handy/crafty friend or relative, they can make you a set of wooden counters, as well as a geoboard.

Do you have some math manipulatives that are your favorites?   Leave a comment and tell me about how you use them in your homeschool.