We have used a variety of manipulatives to help both of my daughters understand math. My husband started "jelly bean math" when they were very young - maybe that is why they love math so much :).
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what makes us love things like Disneyland and Cirque du Soleil so much. I have decided that, for me, it has to do with the attention to detail. The creators of these entities immerse their customers in an entire perfect world. This is the kind of detail that I want for my own classroom and lessons - at least a goal.
With this in mind I made some very cute math manipulatives for my daughters. Instead of just using whatever I could find laying around (something I have done many times) I really invested in something that would be visually appealing and representative of the world I want them to experience while learning.
It has worked out quite well. Watch the video below of my youngest daughter, Natalie doing some addition.
In addition to being great for math, we also use these manipulatives for early word practice. I will upload a video when my daughters are in the mood to be filmed again :).