Category: Hands-on Learning

Discover the amazing learning and teaching possibilities of Hands-On Learning Materials

Healthy children love to be active and play; they are naturally drawn to touching and exploring their environments. Why not collaborate with this natural instinct and provide opportunities for experiential learning? Especially basic math, such as fractions, geometry, algebra etc. should be taught with tangible materials – to keep the joy of learning alive!

Hands-on experiences build a foundation for the abstract concepts of books and results in deep understanding that is rooted in the body. This is the foundation for heart-based intelligence. Through the use of hands-on materials, children can more naturally develop their skills, such as fine and gross motor, sensorial and academic skills, logical, visual, and kinesthetic thinking. They can make use of their natural capacity to focus all energies on one activity in the present moment, and master the elementary and middle school curriculum with ease.


Many child-centered educators developed hands-on learning materials, knowing very well that children learn by doing. New Learning Culture Consulting uses selected materials, elements, and teaching skills from Maria Montessori, Friedrich Froebel, the Reggio Emilia approach, democratic education, Boris and Lena Nikitin, Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf, Célestin Freinet, Elfriede Hengstenberg, Eduard Seguin, Rebeca and Mauricio Wild, Anne Beate Huber, Claus-Dieter Kaul.

Topics, usually taught only on paper, can be introduced with hands-on learning materials: addition, subtraction, multiplication, times-tables, division, fractions, decimals, percentages, money, geometry, square-roots, basic algebra, language, grammar, science, history, astronomy … you name it!

Materials are available for each developmental stage. Some are interesting for all ages. For example, a square root board can be used for square root equations, and also to make beautiful patterns.

Many materials can be made at home with art supplies and recycled materials such as egg boxes. Visit the NLC blog for a few DIY instructions to materials or check some of the countless online resources.

When hands-on materials are provided in a self-directed learning environment with healthy boundaries, children can learn at their own pace while receiving error feedback and experiencing the direct results of their activities. This is very empowering and allows for intelligence and even brilliance to emerge.


Montessori Materials
Montessori materials are developed for kindergarten, elementary and high school ages. They are divided into practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, biology, and geography materials.

Froebel Gifts
The Froebel hands-on materials, called gifts were developed for kindergarten ages, but can be provided for elementary grades, too. They train spatial, mathematical, and architectural thinking. Frank Lloyd Wright loved them! They clarify the concepts of two and three dimensions, building, constructing, structuring, recognizing, and creating meaningful patterns.
They can be used in three different ways:
– Forms of Life (to tell/hear stories in connection with the child’s life),
– Forms of Knowledge (to learn specific math, geometry or language skills)
– Forms of Beauty (to explore symmetric patterns, such as mandalas, and assymmetrical patterns)

Nikitin materials
The Russian parents Boris and Lena Nikitin raised their seven children in the 1960s believing firmly in the natural ability to learn and adjust to environments. They transformed their home into play and learning environments and developed highly intelligent learning materials which are being used in European alternative schools. I haven’t found them for purchase in the U.S. yet.

Ancient Materials
• China: Abacus
• Incas: Taptana, Yupana

Also do internet searches for Waldorf pretend toys, Pikler materials for babies, Hengstenberg materials, and find endless inspiration on instagram.

Creating conditions to kindle curiosity and zest for learning

Children learn from their environments: The environment is a teacher – design it intentionally. You can put toys and simple art supplies on lower shelves, at children’s height. Useful toys are building blocks, with nature materials (seashells, pebbles, acorns…), miniature animals, cars, legos, marbles, dolls etc. Simple art supplies should include paper in various colors, pencils, washable paint, cardboard in various sizes, child-proof scissors, glue, buttons, needles and thread, wool, etc.

Offer hands-on learning materials: Children at preschool and grade school-age can learn practical skills (fine and gross motor skills, sensorial skills) and academic skills (math, geometry, algebra, language skills, grammar and more) almost effortlessly
and playfully with specialized manipulatives. Learn about materials and teaching skills developed by Montessori,
Steiner/Waldorf, ReggioEmilia, Froebel, Boris and Lena Nikitin, Elfriede Hengstenberg, Claus-Dieter Kaul, Rebeca and Mauricio Wild and others. ON the photo you see the social studies room of a Rebeca Wild based (RWB) school in Italy:

Be a Learning Companion: A parent’s and teacher’s genuine
interest in the child’s activity is a catalyst for learning. Spend
time together in timelessness, and give loving attention. Learn to develop your observation skills: How to observe respectfully?
What is important to notice?

Fulfill Basic Genuine Needs: Children need movement, hydration (water-drinking), play, opportunities to make choices, and timelessness in order to activate their inner learning guidance. Find ways to fulfill children’s genuine needs while honoring your own needs.

Set Healthy Boundaries: Children need the safety of consistent boundaries. Learn how to set and maintain boundaries gently and firmly. Learn how to accompany conflicts between children and help them find their own solutions.

Use “Non-Invasive Teaching”-Methods: Guided lessons are based on non-invasive communication and the respect for the child’s free will in regard to their personal learning process.