11 Must-Have Manipulatives for Teaching

Using manipulatives for teaching is a great way to introduce hands-on learning for concrete learners! Here are my top 11 must-have manipulatives for kindergarten. Includes all kinds of activities and center ideas as well. Click through to find out more.

If there is something that Kindergarten teachers can all agree on, it is that teaching Kindergarten requires a lot of things.  Some of the best purchases for hands-on learning are manipulatives. Anything the kids can pick up, handle, and move around will help our concrete learners.

Manipulatives for teaching

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Fortunately, most manipulatives are fairly inexpensive. To help you figure out what you need, we have created a list of MUST HAVE manipulatives for teaching Kindergarten. Check out the list to make sure your classroom is fully stocked and ready to go!

manipulatives for teaching


Two Colored Counters

Two Color Counters are best for working on addition skills. Somehow experiencing that 3 red and 2 yellow is still 5 chips is very powerful.  If you use them for counting, then kids will naturally see how addition works .  They are also great for probability towards the end of the school year. Use counters in the activity Friends of Five.


Dice – These are great year-round.  They are great for center games, counting, adding, and a whole other list of uses.  You of course need some basic generic dice, but these crazy dice are also fun because they have all sorts of different number sets and shapes.  You can never go wrong with foam dice too.

manipulatives for teaching

Alphabet Dice

Alphabet Dice – These get their own section because I LOVE THEM.  These dice contain all 26 letters and so they are perfect for all sorts of games and centers in your room.  You can easily replace alphabet cards with these dice for added fun for your kids.  I personally have a set of 30 so that way each of my students can have one dice.  (You can find them for $1 at conferences and teacher trade shows.)

Playing Cards

Playing Cards – These are great for building number sense.  Kids LOVE to play war and it really helps build kids number sense.  There is also a number of other games you can play like memory or just putting the cards in order.  (I would suggest taking the face cards out.)  Regular size playing cards are fun, but jumbo sized cards make for a great whole-class display and the kids love them too.

manipulatives in the classroom

Learning Links

Children love learning links. They are easy to clip together to make chains of various lengths. They are fun to use when exploring patterns. Kids could create patterns as they fashion necklaces, bracelets, or even snakes.

They are also perfect for teaching counting addition and subtraction. For example, you could invite the students to make a line of X number of links and have them add or subtract links.

Finally, you can use them to practice estimating numbers. Pair students up and have each child make a chain. Their partner has to estimate how many links are in the chain.

manipulatives for teaching

Pattern Block

Pattern blocks are wonderfully versatile. They come in six colors and shapes – yellow hexagon, green triangle, blue diamond-shaped rhombus, red trapezoid, orange square, and a smaller beige rhombus.

You can use them to teach everything from tessellation, number sense, and creating patterns. Use pattern blocks to try Composing 2 D patterns

Snap Blocks

Snap Blocks are another versatile manipulative. They consist of interlocking blocks or cubes. The cubes come in ten colors and connect on all six sides. They are brilliant and kids love to put them together. Here are some of the activities you can do with them.

Letter Stamps

There are lots of ways to use alphabet stamps in the Kindergarten classroom. I like these particular kinds, because they have larger easy-to-grasp handles. They are both upper and lower case stamps. They also contain a few punctuation marks which is fabulous. The plastic cases are nice because they keep everything together. At least in theory!

Children can stamp out sight words, names, color words, theme words. Use them for letter recognition. The Kindergarten Connection has lots of fun ideas for using the stamps in your classroom.

munipulatives for teaching

Magnetic Numbers and Letters

Magnetic numbers and letters are great for hands on learning. Children can feel and see the shapes at the same time. This helps them internalize the shapes and build muscle memory.  Here are some activities that use them

Mini Erasers

Mini erasers are small, rubber erasers, and kids just love them. They make fabulous manipulatives because they are cheap and colorful. Also, there are so many different shapes and styles. You can use them for counting, sorting graphing, and creating patterns. They also make the perfect game pieces. Here are some activities that use them

Jumbo Tweezers

I included tweezers, because they can be used as manipulatives or other small objects. They are great for building fine motor skills by developing the thumb-forefinger pincer grasp. Kids love using these things. For some reason, a pair of tweezers can make even the most mundane task exciting for them! So why not take advantage of that?

Your Turn

So that’s our list. What is your favorite go-to manipulatives for teaching? Do you have any that you just couldn’t do without? Share a comment below.

manipulatives for teaching
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