Tag: learning styles

100 Hands-On Activities for Tactile Learners

100 Hands-On Activities for Tactile Learners

Do you have a child who struggles to sit still? A child who always seems to be fidgeting with some toy or random object? You’re not alone! Many young children fall under the kinesthetic or tactile modes of learning. While these students might struggle in a “traditional” classroom environment (sitting quietly in a desk while the teacher lectures to the class), there are many simple adaptations available to help our hands-on learners flourish. Read on for our favorite tactile activities.

100 Must-Have Tactile Activities for Hands-On Learning

My younger daughter has been a tactile learner from the very beginning. We started with a water table in the backyard, which led to a variety of sensory bins through her toddler years. As many of her peers outgrew the constant need for hands-on learning, Katie continued to seek new sensory experiences and stockpile small toys in her pockets. Even as I write this post, she is spinning around and around and around in my desk chair while reading a book. (My head is spinning just watching her!)

At least one-fourth of children have either a tactile or kinesthetic learning style. Instead of isolating these children or constantly correcting them for being disruptive, we can empower them to take charge of their own learning with these materials! {Click here to learn more about learning styles.}

Tactile learners tend to focus on fine-motor work, always having some small object in their hands. Kinesthetic children are whole body learners, constantly moving, jumping, shaking, dancing, rolling, etc.

100 Tactile Activities for Hands-On Learning

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

Animal Figures: We have the Busy Farm set from Discovery Toys, but this set comes with twice as many animals. Sort by color, animal, make an array, practice multiplication facts, act out stories, and more!

Bristle Blocks: Our daughter got these as a gift for her first birthday, and we are STILL playing with these years later.

Busy Letters: Any material that works on more than one skill, like literacy and fine motor, is a clean winner at our house! 


Clothespins are terrific for building hand strength! Keep an eye out for a fun design like these flowers (although the plain brown ones work just as well!).

green tray with light blue dough

Cloud Dough: I’ll be honest with you–cloud dough is not my favorite. Maybe we just haven’t found the right recipe, or maybe we’ll just stick to regular playdough. 🙂 But if your kids love getting their hands dirty and making a mess, cloud dough might be for you! 

colored gems

Colored Gems are a favorite at our house! Sort them, count them, make patterns with them, add them to playdough…the possibilities are endless!

Cookie Cutters are fun for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers! Little ones can chew on them, and bigger kids can use them for playdough and tracing. We have had this set for years and love it!

Do-a-Dot Markers have lots of uses in a homeschool preschool, especially for tactile and visual learners.  My girls also like to use them for crafts. 

Dominoes are an excellent hands-on math material. Children can count dots and add sums or stack the dominoes and watch them fall.

child's hand with yarn knitting

Finger Knitting is a fun hobby for older tactile learners. Use yarn or fabric loops to make gifts and keep hands busy.

Floam brings back lots of childhood memories for me! Because the texture is so unique, this could be a novelty…though I remember it being a pain to clean up. Flip Flop Faces bean bag game

Flip Flop Faces (from Discovery Toys) is a bean bag game that my kiddos love! The sturdy bowls are also great for sorting other materials (like the animal counters or linking rings) by color.

Foam Letters are perfect for our little sensory seekers who are looking for fun in the tub!

foam hearts on carpet

Foam Shapes can be found at craft stores and seasonal displays. We wrote letters on these hearts, which were then used for spelling games. They are quiet and portable, making them a perfect “busy bag” activity.

Giant Pegboard: This set is well worth the investment, growing from toddler years all the way to elementary school with the geoboard on the back.

Hole Punches can build hand strength and help some kids self-soothe with the repetitive process. Set up a “punching station” with a tray to catch the stray paper. 

Interlocking “Discs”:  These discs are next up on our wish list for the long winter! I can see both kids loving this.

Jenga Blocks are fun, especially when you add a little color. (See our rainbow blocks here.)

jingle bells

Jingle Bells are great for building fine motor skills and learning more about magnets, all with a fun auditory component.

Kinetic Sand: fun sensory play!

Lacing Buttons: These buttons are great for sorting by attribute AND lacing! (This is the exact set we’ve had for years.)

Lacing Cards are a fun way to practice specific hand movements that build strength needed for pencil control. Like the foam shapes mentioned above, these are also quiet and easy for travel!   Letter Stamps: great for inkpads and playough/modeling clay! Hands-on learners can even trace the letters with their fingers for spelling practice.

Learning Wrap-Ups are the perfect way for hands-on learners to practice math facts.

Letter Tiles are great for tactile learners and visual learners to build sight words and word families with ease. 

LEGOs are a classic toy found in nearly every house (I would imagine!). LEGO Sunday is a favorite tradition at our house as we watch football and build together.

Lincoln Logs were one of my favorite toys growing up. My kids love adding other materials to them (clear plastic drinking cups are their go-to) to make big structures.

Linking Rings are a favorite baby toy (great teethers!), but did you know they are also good for preschoolers’ little hands, too? Discovery Toys makes a set with patterning cards that can be used for learning at home or quiet “on the go” busy bags.

Loom Bracelets: While this fad may be over, I still think they are a worthwhile purchase for tactile children. Turn on an audio book while they create and enjoy a quiet afternoon together. 

Loom Potholders: I think every child goes through the potholder phase. 🙂 Kids can learn about weaving and making crafts for others. 

tray of children's toys with label "loose parts"

Loose Parts: We are big fans of open-ended play around here. {Watch our free SMARTplay video training here for more about the power of play.} Loose parts allow children to use their imagination and create their own games!

Magnetic Letters are a fun learning material for kids of all ages! Add in a large metal oil pan from the automotive department so your preschoolers can build words on a large scale. 

Magnetic Match Rings: I bought this toy for my classroom several years ago, and it’s been an instant favorite! Kids can explore why magnets attract and repel while matching color patterns on the included cards.

Magnet Tiles: There are so many brands available, but you can’t go wrong with some magnet tiles in your home!

Marble Run: We have the classic Marbleworks set from Discovery Toys. This is a favorite toy for long winter days!

Mental Blox is one of those perfect toys that truly grows with a child from toddlerhood to early elementary school. These light, 3-D shapes are perfectly sized for little hands to roll and stack, and the enclosed cards give older children a challenge to create a variety of structures. 

Modeling Clay gives children a slightly different experience than softer playdough. If your child is avoiding pencil work, add in modeling clay time to build hand strength.

MotorWorks: Assemble and take apart these little vehicles with a handheld screwdriver or use the battery-powered drill!

Musical Instruments: We have slowly added to our musical instrument collection over the years. A set like this allows a child to mix and match and experiment with sounds.

nature play

Nature is the best sensory experience! Take your child out to the yard and watch them explore for hours.

  • Dirt/Mud
  • Leaves
  • Pinecones
  • Rocks
  • Seeds
  • Shells
  • Sticks

Nesting Blocks: Stack them and knock them down! Toddlers and preschoolers can get hours of fun from simple nesting blocks.

Nuts and Bolts: Match colors and shapes while working on fine motor skills! 

Origami was a big fad when I was in middle school. I made thousands of creations while watching TV and listening to the radio!

Paint in a Bag: Squirt a few colors of paint into a bag and let your child mix to his/her heart’s content! Children can draw shapes, letters, or numbers for an added learning component.

Looking for a fun, hands-on family activity? Bake a loaf of bread with your kids! Learn how with this guest post from Cynthia at Mom’s Bread Bites.

Tactile Activities for Hands-On Learning

More Tactile Activities! (51-100)

Paper Airplanes are a great way to pass the time!

Paper Clips: I was a big Sesame Street fan as a child, and I greatly admired Bert’s paper clip collection. My grandpa gave me my own box of paper clips, and I played with them for days!

Pattern Blocks are one of our favorite math materials. Sort them, pattern with them, make pretty art designs–the possibilities are endless.

Pegboard & Pegs: We bought this set on a whim one day at a toy store, and we have gotten hours of play out of them. 

Pipe Cleaners are so much fun! We have a big stash down in our craft cabinet, and they are always building something! 

plastic eggs

Plastic Eggs: You can make countless learning games with these eggs! Get lots of ideas here.

  • Letter Matching
  • States and Capitals
  • Numbers
  • Sight Words

child's hand with playdough

Playdough: Can we have a post about tactile activities without mentioning playdough? I didn’t think so! 🙂

Play Money: Teaching our children about money can really only happen through hands-on learning. Of course, we could use the real thing (CASH) to practice, but having a plastic set ensures we always have money for sorting and playing store!  

Pom Poms are a must-have for every family! Every Family Activity Guide I create uses pom poms for some hands-on learning activity. 

Pony Beads are a great item to have on hand for crafts and learning activities. Add a shoelace or string for lacing or transfer the beads with tweezers!

cut pool noodles with letters written on them

Pool Noodles: This tends to be a seasonal activity in our family! We bought a few pool noodles and made a hands-on spelling activity with consonants, vowels, and “chunks” for word-building.


  • ABC
  • Numbers
  • Colors
  • Shapes
  • US States
  • Human Body, showing the layers of anatomy

dyed noodles

Rainbow Noodles: This is a simple, inexpensive learning material with lots of uses! {You can see our easy tutorial here.}

green tray with "K" written in salt

Salt Tray: simple and fun activity for practicing letters, numbers, and shapes!

Sand and Water Wheel: This toy lives in our trunk for whenever we go to a park with a sandbox (or the beach at our town lake). It’s perfect for tactile kids who have outgrown their water table!

Sandpaper Letters are great for our tactile learners. (I made a similar set using index cards and “fuzzy” letter stickers from the craft store.)

Scarves are a great hands-on material. Young kiddos can learn about colors and use their imaginations, and when they are a bit older, they can explore the idea of  mixing colors (without the mess!)

Scrabble Letters: My math-loving tactile learner LOVES to add up the value of her spelling words!

sensory bins

Sensory Bins

tray with shaving cream

Shaving Cream: Just a squirt will do! This is fun on a REALLY large scale, but a tray should contain the mess. 

Sidewalk Chalk: Draw an obstacle course on the driveway or have kids hop from letter to letter on the sidewalk. You can also practice counting with a number line or connecting math facts to their answers.

yellow tray with pink slime

Slime: Our girls missed the first slime fad, but then Grandma sent us home with glue and contact solution. So, get ready to see lots of slime around here! 

snow in a bucket

Snow is the ultimate tactile activity! My girls love to make snow castles and snow bricks all winter long. 

Stacking Cups: We bought this set when our oldest child was a toddler. Nearly a decade later, we still love them! Great for scooping and pouring, they can also be used for stacking, measuring (these are volumetrically correct, so three 3 cups full will fill the 9 cup), stamping playdough, and making a demonstration clock for learning to tell time. 

Stacking Owls: Our family does quite a few activities each week where one or more of the children are expected to wait quietly (gymnastics, choir) while another family member is practicing. These owls are easily one of the most favorite toys wherever we go–easy enough for three-year-olds to stack, but challenging for older kids and adults, too!  

Sticker Books are great for tactile learning on the go! Usborne makes great academic sticker books for all ages and interests — keeping little hands busy and minds learning!

green and orange straw pieces in an orange bowl

Straw Pieces: Cut straw pieces might be one of our most-used (and cheapest!) learning materials. We use them for patterning, lacing, measuring, and building fine motor skills as we drop them into containers. I store a big bag with six different colors among our play school supplies. So much love for something so simple!

Train Sets are another open-ended learning toy that our entire family loves! Children work on STEM skills and imaginative play without even realizing it…You can also count pieces, talk about colors, and more.

Unifix Cubes are one of the most versatile learning materials available. We use them for sorting, stringing, snapping together, adding and subtracting with regrouping, and more!

UNO Cards are so much fun for all ages! Little ones can sort by number and color, sequence the cards, and play “What’s Missing.” 

three toys: school bus, fire truck, race car

Vehicles are a fun way to incorporate learning with every day toys–sort the vehicles by color, number of wheels (or vehicles that float/fly). Transfer alphabet rocks via dump truck in the back yard, label cars with numbers and “park” them in matching spaces on a piece of cardboard.

craft sticks with velcro

Velcro Sticks: We got these in a toddler busy bag swap several years ago, and we are STILL playing with them!

Water Beads: Keeping a toddler busy while homeschooling older children requires some creativity! Lay out a towel and a big bowl of water beads with a jar and a teaspoon–but only if your little one is past the “put everything in the mouth” phase.   

water droppers

Water Droppers are great way to add fine motor work into color mixing and water play! The dropper pictured comes from this set.

Wikki Sticks are a fun, versatile toy that can be used again and again. 

Wooden Beads: Big or small, lace some beads on a shoelace during read-aloud time!

Wooden Blocks: We were lucky enough to find our set at a consignment sale. Our girls love using their wooden blocks with their animal counters, wooden people, Lincoln Logs, and/or nature items.

wooden play people

Wooden People: Our set comes from Melissa and Doug. We have a family set and the children that came with the school bus toy. These characters are an everyday part of my daughter’s play–she uses them to act out stories she reads and plays she writes!

If you have a hands-on learner at home, I hope these tactile activities bring hours of fun and learning to your family!

Did I miss any? Leave a comment below!

100 Things from IHN
See more 100 Things posts here. (Just click the pic!)
Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

We tend to focus a lot on early literacy around here, but I also believe math readiness is just as important for our young children. Whether your child currently loves math or not, we should try to make learning math FUN at home! 

For years, I’ve heard stories (tall tales?) about the battles over math flashcards between my husband and his mom. She would literally chase him around the dining room table, trying to convince him to sit down and practice. To this day, he shudders whenever I say the word “flashcards.”

Learning Math at Home in a Fun Way | math play activities, card games, number sense, hands-on activities, learning through play, place value, learning math for kids, learning styles


Learning Challenges

In all my years of teaching (both as a classroom teacher and as a homeschooling mom), I’ve realized no two children learn the same. Very often, we hold a child responsible for his/her own learning challenges. We might call them inattentive or lazy, rather than look at the curriculum or teaching style.

Over the last two years, I’ve watched my own daughter struggle with mastering her math facts. Her issues mainly stem from a lack of confidence and feeling pressured when being timed. To counteract her negative feelings, we spend a lot of time talking positively about math.

Learning Styles

Equipping our children to deal with math challenges often starts with learning about growth mindset. Discovering a child’s learning style can also help us (and them!) find specific, tailored strategies to attack the problem in a fun, fresh way.

Teaching my daughter (a visual learner) how to quickly draw a picture or make a diagram while solving word problems has made a world of difference. For the longest time, she thought she had to do all the work in her head!  

My other daughter is an auditory learner. She has quickly picked up her math facts, just by listening to her sister practice with me each day. We also listen to a lot of skip-counting songs while we’re in the car.

Want to learn more about learning styles? Click here!

Starting Early

I’ve realized that all children deserve a solid math foundation in the early years. Rather than starting with workbooks at the age of 3 or 4, we can bring in fun math games and activities. Young children often do best learning through play!

14 Simple Ways to Make Learning Math More FUN at Home | Tips and Resources for Parents of Preschoolers and Primary Grade Students

Here are some of my favorite ideas for learning math at home in a fun way!

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

  • Math Games

UNO is a great game for number recognition! You can also use the cards for all kinds of “mix and match” learning activities.

Rack-O is fun for sequencing.

Pass the Pigs is fantastic game to practice adding!

Set is one of our favorite family math games. Everyone can play, from the 6-year-old to the 40-year-old. It’s great for sorting and problem-solving!

  • Math Play Activities

    • Cooking is a great way to learn more about math–both measuring ingredients and talking about fractions. If you are looking for an easy recipe for your kids to create, why not try making homemade playdough? Our favorite recipe calls for mixing dry ingredients together before adding in the hot water, so your children can help in a safe way.
    • Playing store can be a fun way to learn more about money–sorting coins by “type” and counting them by 1s, 5s, 10s, and 25s.
    • Grocery shopping and going to restaurants (or recreating the experience at home in your play kitchen) can introduce the idea of budgets and making change. For older kids, you can talk about percentages in choosing a tip for a server.
  • Math Books

It should come as no surprise that we LOVE math-themed books in our house! Here are some of our favorites:

See our must-have math toys here!

We also make learning math FUN by:

  • celebrating silly holidays like Pi Day
  • polling friends & family on Facebook (favorite color, favorite fruit) and then making a graph with the data
  • playing Todo Math on our iPad
  • creating STEM projects (check out our Pinterest board)

Want to learn more about doing math at home?

If you are:

  • the parent of a child ages 2-7
  • passionate about your child’s education
  • committed to making learning at home as FUN as possible, and
  • interested in child development…

then our Making Math Fun workshop is for YOU.

Learn 10 important math skills your children need to know for early math success AND fun ways to practice those skills at home.

This workshop is available now; just click here!

Making Learning Fun for All Families | Two Moms, One Podcast

Making Learning Fun for All Families | Two Moms, One Podcast

A while back, I had the opportunity to chat with Yvonne and Raewyn at the Two Moms, One Podcast show. The moms asked me to come on and talk about a topic I’m passionate about: making learning fun for all families.

For whatever reason, it seems like kids of this generation are growing up thinking that learning is hard and reading is boring. While we could talk about standards and excessive testing, I think a major issue to consider is that our children don’t have much free time. (Certainly school wasn’t any more fun a generation or two ago.)

I have lots of great memories of hands-on fun at school. We got to incubate and hatch chicks, make a solar kitchen, go on the “Oregon Trail,” dress up for pioneer day, etc. After school, I would run outside with my neighborhood friends for hours. We had a lot of freedom to explore and learn new things through discovery.

To contrast, this generation goes to school all day, followed immediately by after-school activities and sports programs. Our kids are surrounded by information (often instant access on the phones in our pockets), but somehow seem disconnected from the discovery process. It breaks my heart to hear the negative feelings our kids have about  learning.

When Yvonne and Raewyn asked me for tips that parents can use to make learning fun and bring hands-on learning experiences back to our family culture, I was more than happy to share!

Listen to Melissa Droegemueller of Rolling Prairie Readers talk about making learning fun on the Two Moms, One Podcast show.

You can click here to listen to the podcast,
or scroll on for my best tips and resource recommendations.

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

Making Learning Fun

  • What should your child be learning?
    This will take a bit of research. Get familiar with your state standards website and also chat with your child’s teacher about current learning objectives in the classroom. Another great resource is the Core Knowledge series of books, which make it easy to know exactly What Your First Grader Needs to Know.

You may be interested in our Age-Appropriate Learning Workshop!

  • Match up your child’s interests with a new skill. Teachers can’t always tailor every lesson to a child’s specific personality and learning style, but parents can! Bring in a sensory tray for your young writer or take your kinesthetic learner out to the trampoline to practice math facts.
  • Talk positively about school, education, and learning. We all want our children to graduate and get a job. We also want to inspire and empower our children to follow their passions and use their unique gifts to make the world a better place. That can only happen when our kids read for fun and learn outside of the classroom.
  • Build stamina with your little ones before they start school. Read aloud often. Allow them to create art and build cities with their blocks. Take them outside to explore nature. Most importantly, play games where they are expected to take turns, follow directions, and finish a task. Buy toys that can be used in a variety of ways to extend the experience. (See our must-have materials for learning at home.)
  • Create a flexible learning environment at home. Children aren’t meant to sit in desks all day long. Let your kids lay on the floor, work at the couch, bounce on an exercise ball, or do their homework outside. Take frequent brain breaks. Dance, take a walk, hang upside down…

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Making Math Fun

Utilize your child’s learning style to practice math at home. Let your tactile learner use “manipulatives” to act out the problems. Teach your visual learner to draw the information and find key words. Make up skip-counting songs for your auditory learner to learn their math facts. Play Uno, Rack-O, and Pass the Pigs. (See our favorite math toys here.)

Making Language Arts Fun

Read-aloud from a young age! Go to the library often, and bring home books that interest your child. Read a book together, and then watch the movie as a family. Write about family trips when you get home! Go to author events and buy signed copies of books. Try book subscriptions and book clubs.

Making Science Fun

Try a new experiment each weekend. (You can get family science activity ideas on my Pinterest board here.) Go on nature walks and explore animal habitats in your area. If you’re okay with quality screen time, then you could watch either Rachel and the Treeschoolers or the new Magic School Bus.

Making History Fun

Some children will love to learn more about history by reading books. Series like The Magic Treehouse, I Survived, and Who Was….? can bring the past to life. You can also watch age-appropriate documentaries and take family field trips to history centers all around your state!

Making Geography Fun

Obviously, there is no better way to expose your kids to geography than traveling together. You can explore maps, directions like north, east, south, and west, learn about public transportation graphics, and distance. Children can also learn about landmarks, natural resources, and other cultures. Even if you can’t go far, family adventures are one of the best ways to make learning fun!

There are many ways to strengthen geography skills from home, too. Buy maps and globes, stock your family library with a quality atlas, and explore the world through webcams and travel sites.  You can even use classic games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? or Stack the States!

Making Learning Fun | parenting, families, hands-on learning activities for parents and kids, tips for parents, math, science, history, geography

Making learning fun at home is an attainable goal for all families. Try one new learning experience each week! Choose positive language about school, and most of all, model lifelong learning for your kids. If I can help at all, just let me know!