10 Helpful Manipulatives For Teaching Chemistry

Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Editorial Team

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The structure of an atom is at times related to the structure of the solar system. As there is the sun at the center, the nucleus forms the center of an atom. The same goes for the different planets revolving around the sun in their respective orbits and a specific number of electrons surrounding the nucleus in the orbital shells of an atom. Relating the concepts to real-life examples or playing online chemistry games does make it easy to comprehend the technicalities in detail but how about if you get to actually visualize and play with the concepts in real time? 

Chemistry manipulatives offer a captivating introduction to the world of chemistry through hands-on exploration. These engaging tools provide a unique way to understand and interact with the fundamental concepts of this fascinating science. By using models, kits, and interactive experiments, students can visualize and manipulate atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions. 

They can build molecular structures, observe the effects of different elements and compounds, and even simulate reactions in a controlled environment. Chemistry manipulatives foster curiosity, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of the principles governing matter and its transformations. Through this experiential learning approach, discover below a list of manipulatives to help students develop a strong foundation in chemistry, paving the way for further exploration and discovery in the field.

Hands-on chemistry explorations: Engaging with interactive manipulatives

1. Atomic Model Set

 Atomic Model Set

An atomic model set consists of individual atoms with magnets or connectors, enabling students to build and manipulate molecules. By assembling atoms, students gain a hands-on understanding of the molecular structure and bonding, fostering comprehension of chemical compounds and their interactions.

Learners can download an app named “Happy Atoms”. After forming a molecule, scan it with the smartphone or tablet camera and the app will show you detailed information about the molecule formed such as its composition, usage, properties, potential hazards, and the breakdown of its chemical names. 

2. Molecular Model Kit

 Molecular Model Kit

Molecular building blocks are larger-scale models of atoms and molecules that students can easily employ to learn about atoms, molecules, and chemical bonds. These blocks allow students to create different compounds and visualize chemical reactions, deepening their understanding of how atoms combine to form molecules.

These atoms and molecules bring the abstract concept of chemical bonding to life and help students to learn by experimenting and visualizing the process and the reason behind certain chemical bonds. Besides, you can also check out interactive games and activities to learn about elements, compounds, and mixtures.

3. Periodic table board game

Periodic table board game

Have you ever thought of using the periodic table as your board game? Well, this manipulative has made it possible. This board game consists of a periodic table as the board where players have to move their counters and collect elements as they play.

It is simple for a young player to understand and play as well as complex enough to hold the attention of an adult player. Moreover, it encompasses all the required vocabulary, periodic table trends, principles of chemistry, structure, and function of an atom making it easy for learners to comprehend the concepts without compromising on the fun factor.

4. Periodic table flashcards

Periodic table flashcards

While DIY flashcards are easily accessible, these periodic table flashcards are highly durable with a laminated matte finish that makes them ideal not only for learning but also to keep them safe from water, dirt, and fingerprints. These cards include every required information about the elements of the periodic table and present it in an easily understandable format.

From the chemical structure of an atom, chemical shell orbits, element notations, and empirical formulae to the various uses of elements these have got everything covered that allows students to visualize the information while learning and comprehending.

5. Periodic table connecting color tiles

 Periodic table connecting color tiles

Element tiles are physical tiles representing various elements from the periodic table. Students can arrange and manipulate these tiles to explore patterns, properties, and relationships among elements. This interactive approach helps students grasp concepts such as atomic numbers, atomic masses, and chemical properties, enhancing their knowledge of the periodic table.

Moreover, the connecting property of the tiles allows students to learn the correct sequence of elements in a periodic table. Alongside this, it also provides hands-on visual learning to construct and balance chemical equations. 

6. Chemical bonding puzzle

 Chemical bonding puzzle

Chemical bonding in chemistry is all about solving the puzzle of connecting atoms of elements and making the required molecule of a compound. This puzzle brings forth the joy of solving puzzles combined with the concept of atoms, molecules, and chemical bonding. It contains the puzzle pieces of some basic and essential elements like hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc.

Along with this, learners can download the free educational app and learn more about the formation, uses, and chemical reactions that a molecule undergoes. As a bonus, it comes with a 3D model of a water (H20) molecule providing a glimpse of how a bond looks like in general.

7. Atom building game

 Atom building game

This board game is something different. Here you need to build atoms with the help of subatomic particles like neutrons, protons, and electron decks. You gain points as and when you create atoms. This is a strategy board game that can be played by 2-4 players at a time.

To add on the interesting factor, it has got the option of spending the energy to recruit famous scientists like Albert Einstein, and Erwin Schrodinger to your deck to give an edge over your opponents. This game can be easily incorporated into the curriculum of students of age 14 and older giving them the opportunity to play while simplifying the complex subject matter.

8. National Geographic Chemistry Set

National Geographic Chemistry Set

This chemistry set comes with pre-packaged materials designed for specific chemical reactions. By following instructions and manipulating the provided reactants, students can observe and analyze the outcomes of these reactions. This hands-on experience allows them to understand reaction mechanisms, identify key factors, and develop a deeper understanding of chemical processes.

Being a perfect STEM manipulative, it comes with a total of 45 experiments, out of which 30 additional activities can be easily carried out with readily available household items. This chemistry set is perfect to provide students an opportunity to explore and experiment with real scientific tools like test tubes, beakers, pipettes, etc transforming their learning experience by bringing the complex concepts to life.

9. Chemistry Station set

Chemistry Station set

Have you ever thought of having your own lab where you can explore, experiment, and discover things on your own? Well, this chemistry station has got everything to get you to your world of chemical reactions and experiments. It consists of a station base, equipment stands, beakers, test tubes, a flask, a petri dish, a funnel, and lots of tools along with a manual guide to help you to easily assemble these and get started.

There are 10 experiment cards with step-by-step easy-to-follow instructions that can be clipped to the station for easy reference. The experiments are easy to follow and highlight every detail about it like their importance and daily usage.

10. LEGO Blocks

LEGO Blocks

Have you wondered if the Lego blocks can be used to teach and learn about complex chemistry concepts? Well, a Lego set combines the versatility of Lego bricks with chemistry concepts. Lego pieces can be used to represent atoms, molecules, and chemical structures that can be easily manipulated and assembled. Students can build different compounds, explore chemical reactions, and visually represent chemical concepts using Lego bricks.

Moreover, the studs on the blocks can be used to represent the valence electrons or the electrons that an atom can share with the other atoms to form a covalent bond. You can use the marker or the sticky note to make the bricks with the element symbol and start experimenting and exploring.

How to incorporate these manipulatives during learning sessions

These tactile tools bring complex abstract concepts to life and provide the opportunity for hands-on learning that helps students to explore, comprehend and learn at their own pace. Given below are some ways to employ these manipulatives in the class to captivate students’ attention and foster active learning.

  • Exploration and Manipulation: Dive into the world of chemistry by giving students the freedom to explore and play with the manipulatives. Imagine themselves as scientists in a lab, experimenting with the materials and discovering their properties through hands-on exploration.
  • Predict and Test: Challenge students to put on their detective hats and make predictions about what will happen when they manipulate the manipulatives. Let them unleash their investigative skills as they test their hypotheses, eagerly observing and recording the results of their experiments.
  • Inquiry-Based Learning: Engage students in open-ended activities that ignite their curiosity and critical thinking. Encourage them to ask questions, investigate phenomena, and make connections between their observations and the underlying concepts. Let their imaginations soar as they become active participants in the scientific inquiry process.
  • Collaborative Group Work: Foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation by assigning group activities where students can work together to manipulate the manipulatives. Encourage lively discussions, brainstorming sessions, and the sharing of ideas. Watch as their enthusiasm grows and their understanding deepens through collaborative learning.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Inspire students to collect and analyze data from their manipulative experiments. Encourage them to create tables, graphs, or visual representations of their findings. Let them embrace their inner scientists as they draw conclusions, identify patterns, and unlock the secrets hidden within the data.
  • Real-World Connections: Show students the real-world relevance of the concepts they are exploring with the manipulatives. Engage them in discussions about how chemistry impacts their daily lives, from the food they eat to the materials they use. Inspire them with stories of how chemistry is changing the world and spark their imagination for future discoveries.


In conclusion, chemistry manipulatives offer a captivating and engaging way for students to explore the intricate world of chemistry. Though learning chemistry may be easy for everyone, these hands-on tools spark curiosity, foster critical thinking, and encourage active learning as students manipulate, experiment, and observe the fascinating properties of molecules, elements, and reactions.

Whether students are building molecular structures, arranging elements, conducting experiments, or analyzing data, the use of chemistry manipulatives brings the subject to life in a fun and interactive way. These manipulatives inspire creativity, collaboration, and a sense of wonder as students embark on their own scientific adventures. So, embrace the joy of hands-on exploration and watch as the world of chemistry unfolds in all its quirky and captivating glory!

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