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Do Materials Matter?

by Early Math Counts


Felt-tip pens

I don’t normally think of pens, paper, or tape as “manipulatives” but since we are looking at bookmaking as a theme this month, I think they are worth exploring.

And so I ask the question, “Do materials matter?”  I used to think they didn’t.  Newsprint sufficed as a canvas for painting and recycled office letterhead paper was fine for all other art projects.  That is until I saw the difference with my own eyes.

As a director, I watched my bottom line.  We had a budget for “consumables” (materials that we went through on a regular basis and needed replenishing) and I worked very hard to stay within it.  Often the teachers would come to me with requests for new and better materials and if the budget permitted, we would indulge.

Have you seen what children can do with beautiful felt tip pens, white graphite paper, colorful tape or scallop-edged scissors?  The difference in what children create when the materials they have work well, are organized in a meaningful away, and are taken care of is remarkable.  I frequently see children trying to draw with markers that are dried out on paper that rips.  I don’t think I would do my best work either.

I know that these materials are often much more expensive but periodically providing a better canvas for children’s paintings may bring out the Picasso in them.  Look for sales, coupons, and Dollar-Store deals.  Save up and indulge on the children’s behalf.

For bookmaking, good paper and easy-to-use pens are important.  Children can’t “write” with chubby crayons or dry markers.  They need materials that are sturdy and can stand up to artistic endeavors of little hands.

6 Replies to “Do Materials Matter?”

  1. I do purchase some material from the dollar store, but you have to be careful because some of their items dry out after one or two uses. I save up for lakeshore learner store or wal mart you can always find items on sale.

    1. That is good to remember. Sometimes, buying better materials means they will last longer, and you have to make fewer trips to the store (of fewer orders to the online store). Dried-out markers are one of my pet peeves, as good markers are soooooo satisfying, and dry ones are sooooo disappointing.

  2. One of my biggest pet peeves is being forced to give the children the scrap paper for their writing and art. I feel that there is more of a sense of pride if children are given fresh paper…not the discarded stuff. Why tell them what they are doing is important if we don’t give them decent materials.

  3. I never thought about how the child might feel about using the scrap paper for their work. Will try and use better quality materials with my class.

  4. It is frustrating that these materials can be expensive. I would even put out a list of materials that parents could provide for the class.

  5. I agree with the importance of materials and as teachers I think we try our best to keep up with demand in our classroom. I think a good point to make would be also teaching the children how to use the materials the right ways to help them last longer.

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