I read somewhere that children learn faster from manipulatives if they are able to have free play with them before using them in math activities. In this way the child learns first what the manipulative is like, then he is ready to apply it towards other concepts. See even the baby is learning the nature of the manipulatives as he sucks on a ten rod.
The kids used the manipulatives to make "Cubical City". Complete with blue buildings, orange lawns, yellow roads and light blue unit people. Each building eventually got a name. Here is our home, there is Papa's work, and the Midwifes office, the store etc.
The math city was so much fun they wanted to play it again and again for days.
In the pictures here we see Base Ten Blocks for units, tens, hundreds and thousands. We wanted to use these block to determine how big larger numbers would be.
If you use ten thousands blocks you have 10,000 units. Like the number ten rod the ten thousand rod would be as high as one thousand block and as long as ten one thousand blocks. Which is the shape shown in chalk.
If you lay out one hundred thousand blocks in a square pattern you would have 100,000 units. Like the hundred units flat this would be as high as a thousand block and as large as one hundred thousand units laid out in a square.
If you were to stack up one thousand thousand blocks in a cube then you wold have 1,000,000.00 units. This would be ten thousand thousand blocks high and then thousand thousand blocks square. It would take up a rather large amount of room.
Here are my helpers behind the 10,000 unit example. The baby enjoyed being outside and eventually fell asleep.
My children here give scale to the 1,000,000.00 units here. The blocks would stack up to just under Hugs' chin and the square would be plenty big enough for four kids to fit inside of.