Salt Dough was actually a favorite manipulative in our house--although not in the traditional sense. But since the goal for motion is "mindless and repetitive", salt dough qualifies nicely. Using cardboard and masking tape, I threw together a loosely constructed Ancient Egyptian house. I read "The Golden Goblet" to my Sizzler, he took a pinch of salt dough and affixed to the model. Repeat. Repeat. It kept his hands busy, and his ears listening. And this was the final product.
HANDWRITING GAME. My son would fall apart whenever I took out "the handwriting workbook" Enter: Bear Belly Bingo-a way to practice handwriting without knowing it. There's a 4x4 grid on the bear. Your child randomly draws a box number (B-2, R-4, etc.), finds his square using these coordinates (a MATH skill by the way), draws a "Patterns" card, (which uses same motions as letters) then fills in the square with that pattern. First one to get four in a row wins.
I'm such a big believer in homemade manipulatives. They're cheap. They're easy. Once I realized my kids couldn't learn unless they moved, manipulatives became a mainstay of our schooling. I thought I'd share one of the very first things I ever made for my kids.
"Going Fishing" simply means using a stick with a string, to which a magnet has been attached. The "fish" are 3x5 cards on the floor with a paper clip on them. We've also fished up math problems, the names of states which must then be colored in on a blank map; colors; latin root words matched to their meanings or derivatives. You name it. This idea basically takes ANY lesson and makes it more fun if the answers lie on the bellies of the fish swimming around on the floor.
We played MATH WAR so many, many times over the years. It works just like regular War, but instead of each player turning over a single card, they each turn over 2. Then they add their two cards to determine whose SUM wins that round. If they need practice with multiplication instead, then you take the PRODUCT of the 2 cards to determine who wins. Great way to practice math facts without a pencil.
We used this game to review practically anything. If it was math, I'd ask a question. If he got it right, he'd spin the spinner and proceed. This was easy to use with two or three kids (each as their own team). You would simply adjust your questions to fit what area of study needed reviewing. I loved this game for its versatility.
Stickers for Math. For simple math workbook problems, put the answers on a page of stickers. Then when your child does a problem, instead of writing the answer, they peel-and-stick the answer. They still have to do the computational work in their heads, but once again, we have a pencil-free way to show what they know.
Let's pull out a science manipulative today. This was a VERY simple rendering of a skeleton. The backs of the pieces had the medical name and the more common name of the bone. I would just have them piece the skeleton together every so often and then check their work.
This was another early counting game. We called it "Snakes in their Beds". I've always loved games that use envelopes because a) they're cheap and b) they travel well. You can grab them and have your child do their work in the car. ---which. . .let's face it, is where we spent 90% of our time anyway!