Top 7 Engaging Manipulatives For Social Studies

Last Updated on October 11, 2022 by Editorial Team

The mighty kingdoms, various acts, and laws along with plains and mountains make up one of the most crucial subjects in school—social studies. Consisting of three indispensable subjects- History, Geography, and Political Science, social studies can be a delight for some, dismay for the rest!

Moreover, learning social studies may come easy for some students, that may not be the case for others. In such a case, manipulatives can be excellent teaching tools, especially for children who get distracted easily. Mostly used for the comprehension of Mathematical concepts, these manipulatives would work seemingly well for social studies too. 

These physical tools of teaching engage the students physically and visually. Manipulatives allow students to indulge with objects that they across daily to learn their school lessons; simultaneously, they interact with other students and learn teamwork.

Teachers use manipulatives to inculcate concepts of Math and Science, and teaching social science with the help of these might look a little bizarre; but, in this article, we will pan through how manipulatives can be game-changers and which all manipulatives can teachers use in the social studies lesson plans.

How manipulatives can make learning social studies easier?

We have talked about the importance and benefits of manipulatives in our previous articles. But did you know that with a little effort put in by the parents and teachers, social studies can be made much more enticing as a subject? This is because interactive games and activities will help children focus better and have more fun learning. 

Here are a few reasons why manipulatives can be a good resource to turn to as a teacher when introducing social science concepts:

  • Students learning with manipulatives will be able to categorize and differentiate better.
  • Students will be able to analyse and remember the different topics, people, places of importance, and historical events that they are presented with.
  • The students will develop a stronger attention span when presented with harder-to-understand topics like parliamentary forms or ideal weather and temperatures of crops and more and learn to persevere for longer.
  • Manipulatives teach them the correlation and physical interaction between things in social science.
  • They are encouraged to better engage in the classroom which improves their social skills and communication.

Best manipulatives for learning social studies

1. Make Play-Doh Landforms 

Make Play-Doh Landforms 

Students can make models of different landforms like mountains, hills, plateaus, and plains. They can use Play-Doh and then sand and rocks to decorate their landscape. Make sure to take to your students about the various reasons for their formation and where they can be found. If your students feel extra creative, feel free to add related plants and animal images or figures. Using Play-doh, students can explore their creative side and get to learn otherwise monotonous topics of Geography in a winsome manner.

2. Thread Food Crops to Seasons

Educators can use real food items to teach students which food grain or item belongs to which season— this can be especially great in teaching them about different food crops based on the type of topography your country presents. 

Thread Food Crops to Seasons

Hand your students a few images or real food, like corn or rice, into the different seasons, using this manipulative. Print out images of different seasons in your region. Put your food into tiny zip-lock bags and create holes in them. Ask your students to thread the right food crop image or bag to the season. While you do this, explain the different weather conditions, water requirements, and sowing and harvesting seasons of these crops to understand better and memorise.

3.  Historical Timeline Puzzles

Historical Timeline Puzzles
img src: amazon

History is fun if learn in an interactive way, manipulatives do that exactly.  To make learning about rulers and medieval times more fun, we can introduce the various historical concepts to students through engaging puzzles. Use a premade puzzle kit or write down different events of an important timeline like the world wars or industrialization you wish to teach your students on each piece of the puzzle. As students put together the puzzle, they must also read and memorize the different events that fall in order. These manipulatives can also be used 

Gather different raw materials that you can find in the classroom or household and print out different images or sources such as plants, oceans, mines, animals, etc. Also, print out images of various products. For example, if you take cotton, provide your student with a ball of cotton and place images of a cotton crop— which is the source and a piece of cloth or an image of the product for them to create a link.  Students can also search for objects that are found in, or near the sea when a topic about oceans is being taught. Moreover, to help them ace geography, teachers can also ask them to get 5 things that are found in a particular place. For example- 5 items found in India. 

5.  Skittles Tax Lesson

There are plenty of manipulatives that teach students about money and money matters. But, what better way to teach students than with the help of colourful candy. This activity can be done both individually or as a group. To teach students how taxes work, divide them into groups of tax collectors and workers. Hand them each a bag of Skittles or any other candy to represent their salaries. Choose certain articles that will be taxed like water bottles, shoes, headbands, or watches and collect one or more pieces of candy for each of these items. Students may be asked only to eat their candy once they are done paying their taxes.

6.  Lego City Planning

Lego City Planning

Teaching about roads, railways, and other modes of transport or the different ways buildings are constructed based on the topography of different regions around the world can be made easier with the help of this activity. Use Lego blocks to build cities or towns as per students’ liking. Use this as a premise to explain the importance of well-planned and consciously built structures and their benefits. Explaining such concepts otherwise can be a tough nut to crack, but when students are engaged in such activities, they learn while being electrified to use a lego block as a teaching tool.

7. Google Earth

Being a virtual manipulative, Google Earth can be an excellent way to teach students about topography and geography. Zooming in around the earth to study the layers, weather and see if the area is a mountain or a plain can be an exhilarating task. Teachers can also use the voyager option of Google Earth to access the high-quality satellite images, which can help students identify locations, oceans, and various other concepts. For example, teachers can give the students a task to locate Australia on Earth and find out about its latitudes, weather, topography, soil, and much more. Teachers can also use the Feeling Lucky option to create to take students virtually to a random destination and create lesson plans around it. Moreover, using the Street View option, teachers can lead the way and escort the students to a foreign location retracing the history of that place. 

Wrapping up,

No matter which one of these manipulatives you choose to introduce to your students, these manipulatives are a foolproof way to grab your students’ attention and pique their interest in the subject of social studies. 

This set of activities will ensure that your students will have a blast while also accumulating as much knowledge and information as they go down that road. Do not forget to take a step back and enjoy the process as your students accelerate towards their academic goals using these social studies manipulatives.

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