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Manipulative Play

Posted by Kids Express Team on April 23, 2014 at 11:45 AM

While I was flipping through the Kids Express Parent Handbook one term that kept popping up was “Manipulative Play.” The first time I saw it I read it and forgot it, but then I saw it again and I had to ask Kelly, our Assistant Director, what the term meant. She had a difficult time explaining it without using the “Teacher Speak” that was ingrained in her throughout the years while she earned her degrees in education. And so, I thought this was a perfect topic to explain here on our blog.


Manipulative play can be defined as a time that a child (or adult) plays with small objects by twisting, turning, pulling, and physically manipulating it with their hands. This type of play helps enhance fine motor skills and hand eye coordination while developing muscles that the child will use throughout their lifetime.


I went to the expert, our Occupational Therapist who works for Achievements, to get more information on the matter for more information for you. She helped me to understand what sorts of manipulative play teachers plan for, why it is so important, and so much more.


One sort of manipulative play would be squirting a water bottle. Perhaps on a nice day you and your child could go outside and use a squirt bottle to water plants and flowers. This activity is fun AND it helps to develop the muscles that we use to do classroom activities like use scissors.

Another activity would be using tongs to pick up small objects. Encourage that the child use the “tri-pod” grip (like when you use a pencil) to pick up something like pom-poms, beads, etc. and sort them by color, shape or size. This strengthens the muscles your child will need to have to use a pencil or pen!


One sort of manipulative play that you and your child may do without noticing that it is manipulative play at all is doing puzzles! Think about it! When you do a puzzle you have to flip and turn the pieces until they fit! Our Occupational Therapist also mentioned how good puzzles are for overall development. They help develop organizational skills when you separate pieces into piles that look alike and they help teach how to visually differentiate between different objects!


So, now you know a little more about how important manipulative play is. Maybe you’ll think twice the next time your child reaches for the controller or remote and switch to do a little manipulative play yourself!

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