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Everyday Math Manipulatives

Each month, Mother Goose Time sends special teaching tools, everyday math manipulatives for preschoolers, that can be used multiple times throughout the month to teach counting, sorting, shapes, spatial awareness and problem-solving. Manipulatives from Mother Goose Time include pattern blocks, lacing cards, beads, links, math story cards and number cards.

Everyday Math Manipulatives for Preschoolers

What are manipulatives? 

Bus Counters Sort Pattern Count Play

They are small items preschoolers can use to:

  • sort
  • categorize
  • count measure
  • match
  • make patterns

Manipulatives make learning about math hands on, engaging and fun. Using small objects to count or sort in play makes math real. The manipulatives kit below is from the August Folktales and Fables theme.

Mother Goose Time Manipulatives Kit

Kinds of Manipulatives

Manipulatives can be purchased or found and collected. When shopping, especially at dollar stores or arts and craft stores, keep an eye out for items that could be used as manipulatives. There are also many free or low-cost items that work just as well. Just make sure they are clean and safe. Children should be supervised with small objects.

Make your own manipulatives such as colored pasta for sorting and patterning:


Colored pasta for noodle snake necklaces. @mothergoosetime #ece #preschool #familychildcare #MGTblogger #hdddc #fablesandfolktales

A photo posted by Stacy@Share&Remember (@shareandremember) on

How to Use Them

Rote Counting: Rote counting is based on memorization of number order. Assigning a number to an object is the developmental milestone called one-to-one correspondence, and makes counting meaningful.

Math Key Counter Manipulatives

Create and use a number line. This one allows the children to match the numbers. This number line was included in the June kit, Alphabet House.

Number Line for Preschoolers #MGTblogger

Sequencing and patterning: a repeated sequence is a pattern. Patterns are things- numbers, shapes or images that repeat in a logical way. Patterns help children make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections and to use reasoning skills.

Counting on the Calendar

We use the Mother Goose Time calendar to talk about the calendar, days of the week, patterns and count. My group easily learns to count to 30 since we count the days on the calendar every day.

In the photos below, we used the Mother Goose Time Math Story Cards and rabbit counters to make mathematical ideas “real” using objects.

Math for Preschoolers #MGTblogger

The rabbits are small, medium and large and also four different colors so they are a very flexible math manipulative.

Bunny math counters
Counting Seeds Math Mat

Identifying Shapes: Toddlers and preschoolers can recognize simple geometric shapes. This activity matches shapes and develops visual discrimination.

Pattern Blocks & Mats

  Tree shape puzzle @mothergoosetime #ece #preschool #familychildcare #MGTblogger #naturedetectives #hdddc   A photo posted by Stacy@Share&Remember (@shareandremember) on

Classifying & Sorting Objects: Older toddlers and preschoolers can start to sort objects by one attribute.  In the photo below, colored insects and matching buckets are used for sorting. Learning Resources Bug Counters


Insect color sorting in the sensory table #ece #preschool #familychildcare #summer #hdddc A photo posted by Stacy@Share&Remember (@shareandremember) on

Spatial Relationships: Puzzles develop the concept of "part-to-whole" relationships. Toddlers and preschoolers begin to understand the relationship between shapes or objects.

Introducing and using positional words such is "under" "front" explains spatial relationships.

Problem solving is the ability to think through a problem and to recognize there is more than one path to the answer. Below, a 4 year old uses pattern blocks, Hands On Numbers, and a math mat from Mother Goose Time to create 3 rectangles. Games, fine motor development and numbers can all go together.

Pattern Blocks & Math Mat

Counting with shells #MGTblogger @mothergoosetime #ece #familychildcare #preschool #kbn #playmatters A photo posted by Stacy@Share&Remember (@shareandremember) on


These fruit lacing beads were included in this month's kit, relating to In the Orchard. They are a quality toy-wood beads and a lacing string with a "needle" to guide lacing. Little pie tins were also included for sorting. My group likes to make "fruit pies" so they are sorting all on their own.

Lacing Fruit Beads

Count & Clip Cards are used for preschoolers who are developing one to one correspondence and identifying numbers. Our circle time display also features a number tree where numbers are introduced and talked about in the group setting.

Count & Clip Cards Preschool Math

Children can interact with the materials throughout the day too. The Hands On numbers allow the children to match numbers, hold them, trace them and play with them.

Mother Goose Time Hands On Numbers

Mother Goose Time story books incorporate numbers as well. We counted the number of trees and apples in the Johnny Appleseed book. You can also see the apples are sorted by color on the trees. It's important to talk about math throughout the day, not just at a special "math time."

Mother Goose Time Johnny Appleseed story book

Tips for Using Math Manipulatives

  • Introduce math vocabulary. Talk about shapes, longer than/shorter than, patterns, estimate, size, measure, texture, analyze, graph.
  • Name the shapes: circle, square, oval, rectangle, etc.
  • Number: Start with simple numbers 0-10.
  • Directional words: straight, left, right, high, low, ear, far
  • Use words that show spatial relationships: under, on, above, below, in the front of, etc.
  • Comparative words:more than, less than, taller, bigger, fewer, smallest
  • Descriptive words: light/heavy; empty/full; hot/cold
  • Time: before, after, then
  • Additional math words: pair, group, set, names of coins and words that describe measurement

Sort objects into:

  • ice cube trays
  • egg cartons
  • muffin tins
keys manipulatives

Math manipulatives can also be used in sensory bins, tray activities, with printable mats or during free play. Use math manipulatives with play dough:


Counting sticks activity /cooperation #ece #preschool #familychildcare #MGTblogger #hdddc #fablesandfolktales @mothergoosetime   A video posted by Stacy@Share&Remember (@shareandremember) on

Free Play

Free play is the perfect time for exploring math manipulatives. Provide a variety of materials for them to explore. The will test cause and effect relationships and form other mathematical ideas. Allow children to assert themselves and be independent. We can observe skills while the child plays.

Organizing Manipulatives

  • label Zip-Lock bags (baggies should not be available to children but they do provide an inexpensive way to store supplies)
  •  plastic bins
  •  baskets

Math Manipulatives

Math concepts do not need to be complex to teach. Let them learn through play!

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[…] There’s also manipulatives – which this month are the connecting cubes, start stamp (different shape each month), Music CD (the CD’s are awesome!) and vehicle manipulatives. Yes, they even include toys! Manipulatives are used for general play, counting, sorting, patterning and more. Learn more about manipulatives with this post. […]

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