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Development Matters 2012 (guidance material supporting practitioners in implementing the statutory requirements of the EYFS) recommends the use of resources that stimulate babies to handle and manipulate things. We all know that manipulative toys create a world of opportunities for children to explore. Well-placed wall panels in accessible areas will quickly encourage even the youngest explorer how to push, pull, press, twist and turn. Make the most of available space by utilising lower wall areas, ensuring resources are at a suitable height for children to reach. You can observe how children learn by looking at their levels of involvement, their focus and their curiosity. Do children persist until they have achieved what they set out to do? Do they like a challenge? Do they show satisfaction when they have achieved what they set out to do?



Manipulative toys can create great opportunities for posting and exploration. If a child likes to ‘post’ objects behind a radiator or through the letterbox, they could be displaying an enveloping and containing schema. Opportunities must be provided for children to ‘post’ in order for them to develop and extend their thinking. Versatile products are great for curiosity. Using photographs of real objects when developing resources will promote active learning for children. The Explorer Board creates an inset jigsaw using images that hold meaning for babies and toddlers. You could use images of the children with their families to promote children’s sense of self.

Wooden exploration toys

Children have the opportunity to display a ‘can do’ attitude with manipulative toys as they offer a challenge. This allows children to demonstrate a real persistence until they get something right. Problem solving is a life skill that should never be underestimated. These kinds of toys can therefore provide satisfaction to children of all ages and stages. There are many great opportunities for increasing children’s skills by ingraining manipulative play throughout the early years. It’s important to include manipulative resources into babies and toddlers play as theory demonstrates that most of our brain development happens in our early life. Children enjoy exploring and challenging themselves. Every time they play, they will make new discoveries which will make them become more knowledgeable. There is true potential of manipulative play resources in settings. It’s important to have enough to spread around and be used alongside attentive practitioners so that the right reaction can be offered as a baby or toddler makes the all-important connections.

Explorer pockets

Other benefits to this kind of play are that children can improve their gross and fine motor skills. They will develop their cognitive ability by making connections between movement and outcomes. Shape Sorters give children the opportunity to explore mechanisms which offer challenge and encourage persistence. Not only are manipulative toys a great source of fun for children, they offer a great range of educational and developmental benefits. The Explorer Pockets have the additional benefit of allowing children to transport objects, which develops their own personal interests and schemas.

Wooden manipulative toys

With thanks to Steve, Sophie and Emma for writing this blog. Steve and Christine Doubtfire are the directors of Smarties and Cedar House Day Nursery in Mansfield. They are both qualified teachers with extensive experience in education. Gemma and Michelle are the nursery managers and have significant experience of the day-to-day challenges of running a nursery. The team have over 90 years collective experience and are absolutely passionate about making a difference to the lives of each and every family they meet through their nurseries.


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