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Top 10 STEM Manipulatives for Kindergarten

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

This year with the Covid restrictions I had to get creative with my bins of manipulatives. Since I could not just put out a large bin of toys to share I had to figure out how to create individual toy bins. Part of the issue I had was figuring out how to give each child enough of the toys but not have huge buckets all over the classroom. I settled on buying a set of Sterilite storage boxes with the latches for easy opening and closing. I have 2 sizes and placed the appropriate toys in each.

On Monday the kids enter the room and choose their box for the week (I am not cleaning these toys everyday!). They store them on top of their cubbies so they do not get mixed up with others. These boxes have worked out great this year for meeting the needs of the Kinders and Covid protocols. I already had most of the materials to fill these containers. I added a few from amazon that I found on sale before school started. Here is a list of the ones I feel the kiddos got the most fun and learning out of: ( I have included links to products I have actually used in my classroom unless otherwise noted.)

Flakes (regular and ball ended): I have 3 different types of flakes. They all seem to entertain and the kids enjoy making different creations with each type.

Snap/Unifix Cubes: Patterns, patterns, patterns! My kids love making patterns with these!

Knex/Legos: These are the all time faves! There are so many variations that I chose to link to 2 sets that I thought would be useful in a classroom setting. I have a mishmash of sets from when my boys were little.

Stick Builders: These are a lot of fun! There were enough in one set to create 3 bins with plenty of pieces.

Magnet Tiles: I bought 2 sets of these because I wasn't sure one would be enough. Now I have 2 bins of them for individual play. Once covid is done I plan to combine the 2 sets so the kids can build larger structures.

Bristle Blocks: Good old bristle blocks! I remember them from when I was little! I happened to inherit a set from the teacher that was in my room before me. The set I have is great because it includes people and animals. (the link below is not the set I have, mine are at least 20 years old!)

Pipe Builders: OMG! I love these pipe builders and so do my kids! They build cars, measuring lines, swords, shapes, buildings etc. These might be the most popular of them all in my room this year!

Cups and Tongue Depressors: This dollar store duo is a huge hit with the kids! I bought several packages of disposable shot glasses and colored tongue depressors. The kids love to build towers and other structures with them.

Dominoes: I always show short interesting videos during snack time. A few months ago we happened upon a domino rally video and my kids loved it! They beg for new domino videos and my bin of dominoes is one of the most popular.

Ultimate Engineering Set: O.K. so these fill up several of my bins and they were part of a grant given to my school. Each set is the perfect size for individual play. This set comes with gears, unifix cubes with task cards, screwdriver building set, magnetic marble run and the Coolest Create a Maze set!

I also have several other bins to choose from like magnet dolls, wikki stix, mini Potato heads, jewelry pop beads, playdough, puzzles, free art etc. All of which the children like for play but don't necessarily improve skills in STEM.

At the end of the week the kiddos stack their bins by the sink. Once they are gone for the day I pour the buckets out onto towels and clean the toys. Once dry I place them back into the buckets and they are ready for Monday again.

During normal years I have paper, masking tape, popsicle sticks, straws, pipe cleaners and any other building items I can get my hands on in a makerspace station. I have loved watching the children collaboratively make marble runs, buildings and all types of creations in this space. I miss the collaboration that makes Kindergarten such a great learning environment. Hopefully, we will all get back to normal soon and the kids will not continue to have the restrictions they have now.

So until Covid protocols are gone these will work. I long for the days of tables instead of desks, large buckets of toys to share instead of individual bins, groups of kinders playing together on the floor and HUGS!



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