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Manipulative Play:
What To Expect From
Birth To Six Years

Manipulative play comes under physical development of your child.

Manipulative Play

Physical development is the process that your child gains control of his movements at different stages.

Your child should be provided with the appropriate opportunities as he may find a task too difficult and will likely loose confidence.

He may also give up instead of returning to an activity.

Age Play Needs of Your Child Suitable Manipulative Toys
0-3 Months Finger play... discovering hand, may hold given object for few moments. Rattle placed in hand; objects above cot or chair that may make a sound when touched.
3-6 Months Starting to use pincer-grasp and moving objects from one hand to the other; watches object fall and follows objects and people. Soft toys; toys that rattle; toys that will withstand banging and are visually stimulating and tactile.
6-9 Months Reacts to people and objects; developing pincer-grasp; points with index finger; looks for objects that have been dropped. Small objects to encourage pincer grip... supervise closely as he will taste them; building bricks and toys that can be built and knocked down.
9-12 Months Developed pincer grip; bangs objects and enjoys throwing toys down and pointing to them. Pull-along toys…with sound; balls to roll; containers with objects in to put in and take out; stacking toys.
1-2 Years Builds 2 block tower. Can place objects precisely. Turns pages of picture book. Squats to pick up toys. Can kick large ball. Pushing toys; building bricks; simple construction toys; large crayons and pencils; wooden lift-out puzzle with knobs to grasp.
2-3 Years Builds tower of 6 cubes. Can pedal and steer tricycle. Builds tower of 9 cubes. Construction toys e.g. Duplo; strickle bricks; thick puzzles in a frame of about six pieces. No small parts as he might put in his mouth.
3-6 Years Ball games skill increases. Builds a tower of 10 cubes. Skips on both feet and hops. Small world toys e.g. play mobil or train set, construction toys, medium sized interlocking puzzles

Materials For Manipulative Play

Small Equipment

  • Puzzles – all varieties
  • Construction toys... such as duplo and meccano, straws etc.
  • Beads, cotton reels, cards for threading and stacking
  • Sewing cards
  • Musical instruments

Drawing and Painting Equipment

  • Crayons -- thick and thin
  • Pencils, pens -- felt tip -- washable non-toxic glue paper; collage pieces
  • Cotton reels
  • Water
  • Sand

Other Equipment

  • Materials for cooking, dough, clay
  • Physical play -- ball play -- throwing, catching etc.
  • Home corner play

Setting Out Equipment For Children's Manipulative Play

There might be a variety of equipment and materials to set out for manipulative play but you should ensure that all equipment are safe regarding to the guidelines below before setting it out.
  • Always present equipment attractively
  • Encourage children’s own choice
  • Allow children to experiment
  • Avoid setting out too many toys as this will not enable children to enjoy choosing an activity
  • Place equipment such as Lego in the middle of a table so that all the children can have access to
  • Ensure that surface is clean and stable and at the right height for the children
  • Ensure that equipment is appropriate for the ages of the children involved
  • Provide space for children to move easily
  • Consider access required for children with limited mobility or in a wheel chair
  • Provide tactile equipment for a child with visual impairment
  • Ensure that toys such as jigsaws show positive images of people.

Sorting Manipulative Play Materials

Manipulative play materials can be inexpensively and attractively stored. As children grow older they may be in a position to have access to them and put them away.

Large plastic boxes are very useful. Do not fill them too much, as children will not be able to look for what they might need.

Drawstring bags can hold materials such as Lego. This also provides enough storage for small objects such as beads.

Label all containers clearly with letters and recognisable pictures…cut from catalogues... or drawn of the materials inside. Equipment can then be located easily and children’s reading skills are also encouraged.

See Also...

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