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?


Marian’s Teaching Philosophy Pt. 6: Ongoing Reflection & Assessment

[www.freeimages.com] professor-at-work-1024629-mI’ve enjoyed sharing my teaching philosophy. Today is the sixth and final component of my philosophy. Ongoing reflection and assessment ties all the components together. Reflections and assessments range from formal, such as course or tenure evaluations, to informal, such as sticky notes I write to note changes.

Not only do I make modifications during an actual class session, I am continually thinking about what happened during class. What did the students understand? What questions did they ask? How could I improve or change the content? Are the textbooks still relevant and up-to-date?

Grading rubrics are revised. Student Learning Outcomes for each course are regularly assessed by the Child Development professors. Changes are made based on results. Assignments, projects, lab manuals, quizzes, etc. that work well remain, while others are modified or replaced.

Students feel empowered when I frequently ask them for ideas. A favorite way of obtaining students’ input is asking them to write an advice letter to next semesters’ students. These letters provide the most honest and straight forward thoughts about my teaching and what students like, dislike, and learn. The course’s advice letters are summarized and distributed to next semester’s students.

It doesn’t seem like that many years ago I began forming my teaching philosophy. Although I’ve kept abreast of the educational pendulum of change, my philosophy remains consistent. I’m grateful that I’ve been privileged to invest in new generations of educators.


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Part 5: Multimodality Teaching & Learning Styles

A multimodality teaching style is my teaching philosophy’s fifth piece. I display an innovative and refreshing teaching style by utilizing methods that engage visual, auditory, and/or kinesthetic learners.

My teaching style begins by looking at the topic’s big picture. I research and gather content and ideas from sources beyond the textbook(s). Then I ask, what are the ways I can teach this content using different modalities? What are the best ways for students to demonstrate competence? I’m intentional in every teaching aspect.

I want students to understand multimodality teaching and how that benefits them. On the first day of class I actually teach on learning styles. Each course offers an optional learning styles inventory so students can determine their style(s). I also present Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning (1969) that clearly depicts the differences between active and passive involvement.

Each class is well planned, yet versatile and flexible. I develop a variety of activities using different modalities that best fit the class’ particular needs and interests. I incorporate various activities such as: self-reflection, journals, small and large group activities and discussions, brainstorming, problem solving, graphic organizers, video clips, role-playing, and hands-on projects that require student involvement and critical thinking skills.

When you’re learning something new, how do you learn best? I’d love to hear about your learning style. You can find surveys for children, adolescents, and adults. If you want to discover your learning style, here are some resources.

Diablo Valley College – Learning Style Survey www.dvc.edu/enrollment/counseling/lss/ This is the survey I’ve used with college students for many years. It is now online.

Learning Styles Inventory by Edmonds Community College https://www.edcc.edu/…/LearningStyleInvThis site provides study tips for each learning style.

What’s Your Learning Style? 20 Questions www.educationplanner.org/students/self…/learningstyles-quiz.shtml


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Pt. 4: Educating Students Across the Curriculum

[www.stockpholio.com] protractors

The fourth facet of my teaching philosophy is educating students across the curriculum. I regularly integrate science, history, and math skills into content.

When I’m teaching fetal development, I’m teaching genetics and biology. When students calculate square footage for a classroom using cell phones, I’m reinforcing math skills. These activities help students realize how cross integrated the child development field is with many other disciplines.

With so many second language learners, I always teach English, reading, and writing. With a supplementary authorization for basic English and a reading certificate, I possess additional skills that fosters students’skills. These strategies are useful for students at variety of levels.

Postmodern students will likely change their careers 10-14 times by age thirty-eight. The top ten jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004 (Shift Happens 3.0). Since students will change jobs frequently and their future careers don’t currently exist, critical thinking skills, technology, and soft skills are integral to my teaching philosophy. Students must know how to learn.


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Pt. 3: Content & Curriculum Expertise

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My content and curriculum expertise serves as the third philosophy facet. Although I possess advanced degrees, I am a life-long learner, avid reader and researcher, and conscientious about maintaining cutting-edge child development and education knowledge.

This requires participating in professional associations and conferences and learning from colleagues. I thoroughly enjoy returning from training and incorporating new ideas into my courses, writing, and speaking.

I absolutely love research. My most recent research topics include restorative practice in schools, peer mediation for elementary and junior high students, and faculty peer evaluations. What can I say? I’m a research geek.

During a CAEYC Play Conference, I documented my colleague and me learning through photographs. Then I created a PowerPoint presentation titled “Visual Documentation” for my Observation and Assessment college course. The students actually enjoyed seeing their professors “play” while they learned how to document their child observations using photographs.

New knowledge generates renewed energy. Students and speaking audiences are immediate beneficiaries. They experience firsthand the value of continuing education. education as I share what I learned and integrate new material into the course content.

Another favorite aspect of teaching is developing new curriculum and courses. The first phase is gathering research on the course topics. Then I categorize the massive amounts of information, choose the best materials, create interactive learning activities, and integrate it into existing content. As a curriculum specialist, I’ve applied my content knowledge by developing over twenty-five courses.

As an author, speaker, and educator, my web site features over 45 topics. Speaking categories include: Restorative Practices in Schools; Parenting Young Children; Patenting School Age Children; Parenting Adolescents; Topics for K-12 Educators; and Topics for College Professors. If you know a school, parent group, community group, or church looking for a speaker please consider one of my topics.


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Marian’s Teaching Philosophy, Pt. 2: Students & Teacher Learning Together

I’m sharing a series on the six facets of my teaching philosophy. The foundation of my philosophy is creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment.

My second teaching philosophy concept is that students and teacher are all learning together. As a vigorous and enthusiastic professor who enjoys education and interacting with students, I include myself as a learner.

I constantly discover new ideas from my students because I don’t possess the same background and experiences they offer. Everyone has something to contribute. Students bring life experiences that are critical to learning.

The safe environment fosters students asking questions and participating in small and large groups while processing and applying what they are learning. When I don’t know something, I reply, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer. Let’s find out.” One of my favorite questions was, “Does head size affect a child’s intelligence?”


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