10 Math Skills Children Can Learn From Laundry Lids, Part 4 of 4

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Top row: ABAB pattern; Middle Row: AABBAABB pattern; Bottom Row: AABAAB pattern

Math Skill 9: Patterns

Creating patterns can be confusing to children but learning patterns is foundational for both math and science. When choosing lids for patterns, select lids that are the same. This helps kids not confuse the lid differences with the patterns.

Simplest Pattern

The top row of the photo depicts the simplest pattern, ABAB (green, orange, green, orange lids). This pattern was frequently practiced in my grandson’s kindergarten class.

Children can arrange the AABBAA pattern (middle row: yellow, yellow, orange, orange, yellow, yellow, orange, orange).

More Complex

Children progress to more complex patterns, such as AABAA (bottom row: purple, purple, green, purple, purple, green). A more advanced pattern is to alternate by size of lids, such as small, medium, large, small, medium, large. How many patterns can your child create?

New Lid AB

Hint: There are more lids in container A than container B

Math Skill 10: Estimation

Kindergarten children can begin making better estimations because they understand more about numbers. Estimation is defined as a rough calculation of the value, number, or size of something that children learn in the primary grades. (1) Ask, “How many lids do you think are in the container labeled A?” Let the children guess.

Add a Hint

After children guess, add a hint. “There are more lids in container A than there are in container B. Container B has 25 lids. Estimate again. Now how many lids do you estimate are in container A?”

Ask How?

After children estimate again, ask, “How did you decide how many lids were in container A?” Finally, count the lids together. An estimate is just that, an estimate. It isn’t really right or wrong. Some estimates are simply better than others. (2)

Teaching math skills using laundry detergent lids and other lids are lots of fun for both parents and children. What new skill can you work on today with your kids?



  1. www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/estimation
  2. Developing Estimation Skills in the Primary Grades, Larry P. Leutzinger, Edward C. Rathmell, and Tonya D. Urbatsch. www.sde.ct.gov/…/mathgoal/Resources/Developing_Estimation.pdf.


10 Math Skills Children Can Learn From Laundry Detergent Lids, Part 3 of 4

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Distinguishing Differences. Left: Similar types of lids but different colors; Right: Lids with ridges

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Sort into small size lids, medium and large

Math Skill #7: Beginning Seriation

Seriation [seer-ee-ey-shuh] (1) describes the way young children organize their world based on differences. Can your preschooler distinguish different characteristic of lids, such as lids with ridges or the same type of lids, no matter what color? Ask children, “What’s another way you can sort the lids?”


An additional part of seriation describes the relationship among objects, such as big, bigger, biggest. Begin by teaching toddlers

concepts like bigger and smaller. Say, “I have a big lid. You have a small lid.” Once they learn this concept, they can compare simple attributes. Ask, “Which lid is bigger, the blue lid or the red lid?”

Sort by Sizes

Next preschoolers can sort by sizes by small, medium, and large lids. Eventually children can refine the sizes and create more size groups, like tiny or very large.

Math Skill 8: Advanced Seriation

Ultimately children become more aware of the properties or qualities of objects. They can compare more specific attributes and order objects on gradual variations, such as by height. Ask, “Can you arrange the lids from shortest to tallest?”

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Top row: Smallest to Largest; Bottom row: Light to Dark


Children can determine a logical progression of contrasting differences for items. More examples include:

  • by color intensity: light to dark, (refer to the photo with orange, purple, and blue lids arranged from the lightest to the darkest);
  • by length: shorter to longer;
  • by weight: heavy to light; or
  • by texture: rough to smooth.




  1. content.dictionary.com.

Marian’s 6 Favorite Lids to Teach Math Skills

Here are my favorite lids to collect for teaching children math skills. I’ve posted two of four parts in June and will post the last two skills subsequent to this blog post.

New Lid 1-21. Laundry detergent lids are large, easy to manipulate, come in different sizes, and are bright colors.


New Lid 2-22. Men’s & women’s shaving crème lids come in fairly good sizes, various colors, and many are dome shaped.

New Lid 33. Large juice lids are easy to manipulate, colorful, have ridges, and come in different colors and sizes.


New Lid 4-24. Hair product lids are usually cylinder shaped. Clear lids make it easy for children to see when they put treasures inside the lids.

New Lid 5-25. Unusual lids are hard to find, but a great addition to any lid collection simply because they are different and interesting.

New Lid 6-26. Just the opposite of unusual lids, are common lids. These are great when you need multiple lids the same color and/or size so the math concepts aren’t confusing for children. For example, lids for counting and creating patterns. What are your favorite lids for teaching children math skills?


10 Math Skills Children Can Learn From Laundry Detergent Lids, Part 2 of 4

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Can you sort the blue lids?

Math Skill 4: Classification and Sorting

Have you ever noticed kids sorting their candy, Matchbox™ cars, or Legos®? Sorting and classifying objects are beginning math skills. Classifying is grouping objects by a common attribute, such as lids. (1)

One Characteristic

After toddlers learn colors they can begin to classify objects by one characteristic, usually color. Say, “Let’s sort the lids by color. Can you sort the red lids? . . .  What about the blue lids? . . . Now the yellow lids.”

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More advanced colors: gray, black, white, brown and pink

Several Colors

Gradually preschoolers can sort several colors at one time. Have the child try the secondary colors: orange, purple and green. More advanced colors in my lid collection are black, white, gray, and pink. What color lids did you collect?

Math Skill 5: Order

While children play with objects, they discover ways to order items to meet their needs. For example, a child could stack the lids to create a tower or make stairs. Ask, “What can you make with the lids?”

Adding Items

Tonight my grandchildren used the detergent lids, added glass rocks and served us delicious ice cream. Kids might fit the lids inside one another.

Using the lids, preschoolers can order the lids from smallest to largest. At first, give younger children 3 or 4 lids to sequence. Gradually add more sizes to sequence. Eventually children can sequence the lids on their own.

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Which lid is…?

Math Skill 6: Spatial Relationships

The lids provide a great opportunity for children to learn words and concepts about how objects are related to one another in space. For example: over, under, behind, next to, on, off, beside, in front of, outside, inside, and in the middle. (2)

Dump the lids out and look at the arrangement of the lids. Think of questions you can ask kids about spatial relationships. Based on my photo of lids, I can ask, “Which lid is in front of the red lid? . . . Which lid is behind the brown lid? . . . Which lid is next to the red lid?”



1. When children arrange materials in a graduated …

www.highscope.org/file/PDFs/EYC3rdCh14sampleMathSeriation.pdf, p. 397.

2. Math and Science for Preschoolers ppt. ksuweb.kennesaw.edu/~rjeansig/Math and Science for…

Whose Butt?

You bought your airline tickets awhile back. Suddenly, the departure nears. You arrange for someone to care for your two cats and one dog. You start gathering stuff…your stuff, the kids’ stuff, and more stuff. You pack. And re-pack. And pack. You remind yourself. Don’t forget to pack the kids’ snacks. Oh, and the kids’ favorite Stuffies.

[flickr.com] Inside OHare Airport Signs

Inside O’Hare Airport Signs

You’re finally done. You breathe a sigh of relief. Then one of your kids has a meltdown because he can’t sleep without his Stuffies. You dig through the suitcases. Where did I pack Patches? After everyone is finally in bed, you confirm your flight.

That’s just what I did last night. I gathered stuff. I packed. And re-packed. And packed some more. It fit when I arrived. Why won’t it fit now? Oh yeah, more stuff . . . the mug with colorful birds of the Carolinas, two gifts, and how many books? I decide not to count those. Then I confirm my fight for tomorrow from Asheville to Minneapolis to visit my cousin.

What? That can’t be right. Forty minutes to change planes at O’Hare International Airport? That’s a gigantic airport in Chicago. There’s got to be a mistake.

“United representative, may I help you?”

“There’s a problem with my flight’s layover time.”

“Let me check.” Computer keys clack. “It looks like the times on that flight were changed.”

How did I miss that? “Well, can I get to Terminal 2 in time to board?”

“If you walk directly there and don’t dawdle, you can probably make it.”

Go directly without dawdling? With my brain impairment, I don’t do anything directly. There is no Point A to Point B unless I count Point 1A, Point 2A, and Point 3A. With kids at home, I bet you can’t do everything directly either.

Then there’s my curious personality. I imagine, Oh, look at that adorable stuffed river otter. Off I walk towards the otter. Just like a child, maybe your child, something catches my eye.

Add in the possible distraction of my hungry tummy. I smell Auntie Annie’s pretzels. I haven’t had one of those forever. It must be close by. You know your kids can’t function if they’re hungry and neither can you.

I answer the representative, “No, that is absolutely impossible for me to do. What are my options?”

A later flight is scheduled. I won’t arrive in Minneapolis in time to take the three-hour shuttle to Duluth. My husband kindly finds me a hotel, rearranges a morning shuttle, and contacts my cousin.

After a two hour delay, I arrive in Minneapolis at 12:30 AM. The hotel shuttle promptly picks me up. I’m exhausted, but my curiosity notices a sign. “What’s this national refuge?”

There is is...right across the street from Hilton

There it is…right across the street from Hilton

The shuttle driver explains, “It’s a 72 mile refuge corridor. In fact, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is right across the street from the hotel.”

Of all the hotels my husband could have selected, the museum is right across the street from the Hilton? I planned to sleep in. I can sleep on the shuttle instead. I set my alarm to explore.

The concierge directs, “Just go out the front door. Turn left. You’ll see it.”

There it is. A large building, surrounded by grasses, plants, and trees. I walk less than one block, camera in hand.

Click. Click. Click. I roam from exhibit to exhibit.

Click. Click. Click. I’m drawn to the bookstore. No surprise there. Remember, you’re on a time schedule.

A six-year-old boy points and says, “Mom, I want that book.”

Whose Butt

Book Cover: Whose Butt?

I look at the book’s title. Whose Butt? I chuckle. I know a six-year-old grandson who will think that’s hysterical. I bet you know a kid who would laugh at this too. I pick up Whose Butt? More books call my name. Again, I decide not to count.

This is not a coincidence. Lord, thanks for changing my flight. You planned this adventure just for me. I am blessed with another desire of my heart. Nature, photography, and books: all unexpected gifts.

What about you? Has there been a change of plans that resulted in an unexpected gift? Look around you. Whose Butt will you see?

Hope Street: Life Keeps Getting in the Way

DSC_0239Some of you are actual list makers while others of you make mental lists. Every night I write a to-do list. The typical mundane things that must be done, like doctor’s appointments, pick up library books, or shop for groceries. What’s on your daily to-do list?

But this isn’t my only list. I have a special list for my hopes, dreams, and heart’s desires. This treasured list features ideas, like writing projects, speaking on cruises, and securing book contracts. Do you have such a list?

If you had a list for your heart’s desires, what would be on it? Maybe you want to return to school and finish a degree that was interrupted by motherhood. Perhaps you imagine a weekend away with your spouse, walking hand-in-hand along the beach. Possibly you need peace about disjointed family relationships. I don’t know what would be on your list but you do. And so does God.

Every night I’m hopeful tomorrow will be a good day. I’m hopeful that my brain will be alert. I’m hopeful that I can accomplish my to-do list. But mostly I’m hopeful for progress on my dream list.

There’s just one problem. Life keeps getting in my way. Sometimes I refer to my lists but nothing gets done. Other days I don’t remember to look at the lists. Some days I can’t even find my lists. My life reminds me of this photo I took this week in North Carolina. I can see what’s right in front of me, but I’m convinced there’s something better beyond. I feel disappointed . . . again.

Maybe life keeps getting in your way too. You anticipate the school carnival but one of the kids gets sick. You plan to attend MOPS today, but you run out of diapers. When you stop for diapers you realize you’ve lost your ATM card. After dealing with the bank, you miss MOPS. You plan to take prom photos of your daughter and friends but you get called into work. You feel disappointed . DSC_0233. . again.

Lately I’ve been plagued with disappointment. Some days I’m frustrated by 8:30. Mind you, this is 8:30 AM not PM. Other days go pretty well for awhile; some days go fine. But some days my life feels like tangled branches. I’m confused and going in multiple directions.

I question my abilities. Will I ever get all the components done to apply to cruise lines? Two years and I’m still plodding along. I face computer challenges every day. Sometimes it’s the computer, but typically it’s the computer user. How can I use the computer daily and be so incompetent? Maybe you ask yourself such questions?

When I get discouraged, I’m tempted to have a pity party. But I quickly recall others who face dire circumstances, like the devastation in Nepal. Sometimes I whine and complain; sometimes I journal frantically about my frustrations. At times I change activities when I get frustrated. I try something else, until I get frustrated, and try something else. When I can’t do anything, I pull weeds. Sometimes these strategies make it easier to move forward.

Recently God’s been showing me that I’m trying to fix my disappointments. When I step away from DSC_0244the bushes and tangled branches, I see a different perspective, a bigger picture.

God’s already brought to life some of my dreams. My flexible schedule provides more time for: grandchildren, traveling, nature photography, biking, and kayaking. Most of all, time to write and speak.

When I step back and focus on God, I can truly be hopeful every day. How about you? Where do you find life gets in the way?