1. Smooth stones come ready made and freely available from your local beach or stony river. Small pebbles are perfect as game tokens, or collected for use in Math lessons. They look great with stickers and glitter glued on and are REALLY durable. However, they can be heavy when stored en masse.
2. Wooden shapes are available in packs of 12-20 from your local dollar shop. These are particularly awesome to use for number stories (i.e. 6 bumble bees were sitting on a flower and 3 flew back to the hive, how many were left?). They are more durable than paper cut outs, intriguing and reasonably affordable for small group or whole class work.
10. Painted pegs. Perfect for counting and clipping onto 'washing lines' (curtain wire strung across a window at a child-friendly height). Alternatively, try sorting by colour or pattern? Or use plain pegs and write numbers on them for a number ordering activity. Try dying plain pegs (there are plenty of tutorials online) if you are looking for value for money. Your local Bunnings will have an affordable array of plain pegs, and painted pegs are often available in the craft section of dollar shops.
So there you have it. 10 tried and true child friendly manipulative's and alternatives for counters in your Math corners. They are all relatively inexpensive, intriguing and provide different contexts for learning. Remember, the cheaper the materials (i.e. free), often the greater the work involved in setting them up (washing, spray painting, gluing, clear coating etc). I have by no means exhausted my possibilities, so check back again another day for 10 more cheap and cheerful ideas!