In my business, I throw the term “music manipulatives” around a lot. It is a term that is not particularly common; however, it perfectly describes what they are.
The dictionary definition of manipulatives is:
Any of various objects or materials that students can touch and move around in order to help them learn mathematical and other concepts: the use of blocks, flashcards, and other manipulatives in the classroom.
Math manipulatives are the most common form of manipulatives, and have been used successfully for many years to teach mathematical concepts.
Music manipulatives are simply “concrete” objects that help small children identify musical symbols and understand more abstract musical ideas. For example, allowing a small child to hold and play with an eighth note allows them to easily identify an eighth note when they see one printed on a page.
Basically, I like to use hand-held wooden notes, including the whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note. I also have wooden piano keys, treble clef, bass clef, flat sign, sharp sign, and natural sign. I use a large cloth floor staff that the children can sit on, put their notes on, and create their own songs on. I use a homemade eighth note puppet to teach the parts of the note. I use a small ladder-looking device for teaching scale steps. I also consider the use of Precorders as music manipulatives. Music flashcards can also be used as manipulatives.
For more information about using manipulatives to teach musical skills, check out MusicManipulatives.com.
I have also listed links to other music manipulative resources here:
Using Music Manipulatives