Storing All the Hands-On Stuff

Welcome to the hands-on learning series by Stef Layton, where she answers questions she’s received about tactile learners. Do you have a hands-on learner? These posts will give you great insight, advice, and practical application tips. Enjoy! 

Stacy asked, “You must have so much stuff to do all the hands-on activities. Do you have a big homeschool room? How are you storing all the hands-on stuff?”

I would love to have our own homeschool room complete with library and resource center. But we live in a small house. We had to rearrange the use of typical rooms in order to have “homeschool space”.

The original dining room is used as an office, we eat at a four person table near the kitchen, and use the originally designed “family / open room” as our homeschool area. Which all means … I have one bookshelf for homeschool stuff. I have had to learn to like simple.

Since I do not have the house space to store “stuff” I need to re-use what I can store. Instead of 52 different colored paints I usually only buy 4 colors. Blue, yellow, red, and white make the colors my boys need. Besides, mixing your own shade of green is far more fun.

Since I do not have the space to buy more stuff, more stuff is saved to be used again later.

Storing All the Hands-On Stuff

I buy a lot of plastic bags rather than keep boxes. All the pieces of a game, kit, or set go into a plastic bag then into one large storage bin. The storage bin slides under our table. Think about Monopoly and all of the pieces, money, and houses. Once you put them into one gallon plastic bag it’s much easier to manage. The boards to the games slide easily down the side of the storage bin. If there are directions I need to keep I like to cut them out of the box and place them into the appropriate bag.

I have learned after years of throwing out unused supplies you really only “need” a few things in order to teach your hands-on learner. Remember, a hands-on learner is not necessarily a crafter. Hands-on learning is to help teach a concept. Crafting is to create an end result.

5 hands-on resources to keep stocked:

* modeling clay – it stores better and lasts longer than play doh

* Legos, blocks, etc. – things that can actually build up, add together, or take away

* tracing paper – great to add different colors for more explanations / visual differences

* dry erase boards – I cannot recommend these enough especially for the perfectionist

* index cards – make your own flashcards

A few other things I like to have around …

* Ping pong balls and plastic cups can quickly turn a True or False review into a fun game. Watch our True or False Pong game.

* Playing cards are a nice break from the math curriculum, yet still always strengthen math skills.

* Dominoes are perfect to write on with a dry erase marker. Use them in your lessons. Watch our State Abbreviations activity.

* Balloons are easy to write on and tons of fun for little ones. If your children are not fans of balloons large plastic balls and dry erase markers work the same.

Familiar objects also make learning more enjoyable. I was tired of fighting the battle that Green Monkey could not come to the table once school started. One day we used him in our Land Animals lesson. He was a hit! Incorporating the stuffed animals, match box cars, and marbles is also cheaper than buying more “school stuff”.

You’ll also realize as your grades change so do the hands-on resources. When my children were learning letters I would insist every mom needed magnetic letters. Obviously we do not “need” them anymore. My boys have outgrown bean bags and want to use dart guns. I adapt to keep lessons interesting.

What to do with the old stuff? If your supplies are still in great shape but are cluttering up space, consider donating them to your church or local daycare.


Stef Layton lives in Orlando, Florida homeschooling two tactile learners. Stef is the Hands-On Learning Columnist for Homeschooling Today magazine. This year she started showing hands-on activities on youtube. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @StefMLayton.

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