Clothespins? Yes, ordinary spring-type clothespins can be turned into some pretty snazzy manipulatives and still be pressed into laundry duty as needed. I used a Sharpie permanent marker to write on the “business end” of each clothespin. See the entire alphabet? (click on photos to enlarge)
I made my clothespins with upper case letters. Your students can practice matching them up with their lower case “little brothers” on flashcards, even homemade ones like this piece of cereal box cardboard.
Did you notice that the first pic had the clothespins facing one way and the next pic had the clothespins facing the other way? Good for you—you’re very observant! I wrote the letters on both sides of the clothespins, carefully facing them in opposite directions, so that the pins could be used either up or down. Here’s one pin I took apart, so you can see both sides at once.
I repeated this trick with numbers and arithmetic operation symbols. These are clipped onto a wire hanger to spark your imagination with more ideas for use!
And here’s a quick math problem with clothespins:
You can make multiple sets of letters and numbers with these low-cost, multi-purpose manipulatives. Let your early learners sort the letters in alphabetical order or clip the clothespin letters onto matching flashcards, letter tiles, or the title words on their favorite storybooks. Use the pins for phonics practice, challenge your students to form their spelling words, or leave silly messages on the clothesline. Bring a different tactile dimension to math lessons by letting the littles sort the numbers in order, combine pins for multiple-digit numbers, or include the operation symbols for writing out math problems. Best of all, these manipulatives can do double duty on laundry day, and your students will get plenty of stealth learning practice when they sort the pins out again for lessons!