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.

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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.

LIST OF VARIOUS HANDS-ON MATERIALS:

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.