10 Math Skills Children Can Learn from Laundry Detergent Lids, Part 1 of 4

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A clear plastic container filled with colorful lids

How do you describe your experiences with math? Many of us think of descriptions that wouldn’t be appropriate for a blog. Math is often an obstacle for students graduating from high school and community college.

Math Easier. But if we start teaching math concepts to young children using objects they can manipulate and explore, math becomes easier. Let’s look at making math fun teaching with lids.

One reader reports, “I didn’t throw away the laundry detergent lids as suggested in your previous blog. I’ve saved over 50 colorful lids in different colors, sizes, and a few shapes. What’s next? How do I use my lid collection to help children learn math concepts?”

Here are the first three of 10 math skills that toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners & primary grade children can learn from manipulating laundry detergent and other lids.

Cartoon Speech Bubble Clip Art [ux.stackexchange.com]

Cartoon Speech Bubble Clip Art [ux.stackexchange.com]

Math Skill 1: Talking Math. So math doesn’t become an obstacle for your kids or grandchildren learn how to talk to them about math. Most math concepts are abstract so use real objects when talking about math. (1) Hold three lids and say, “I have three lids. How many lids do you have?” Examples of what to say or ask children are shared for each skill.

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It is easier to count lids that are all the same color

Math Skill 2: Counting and One-to-One Correspondence. Parents and grandparents are so thrilled when their toddlers or preschoolers can count 1 to 10 or to 20. The children have simply memorized the numbers just like they memorize a song. They don’t yet understand the concepts of numbers. This is called rational counting.

To truly count, children need to understand that the number they are saying corresponds with an actual item. This is called One-to-One Correspondence. The number two represents two items, and so on. Start with five lids and then add more. As you point to each lid with the child’s finger say, “Let’s count the lids. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s right, there are five lids.”

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Cylinder shapes

Math Skill 3: Geometric Shapes. Preschoolers can learn to identify simple shapes, such as circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles. What shapes did you discover for your lid collection? Did you save any lids that flip open or square lids from make-up? The majority of lids in my collection are circle shapes.

Recognize. Once children can identify the circle shape itself, they can begin to recognize the shape in pictures or common items around the house. “Let’s see if we can find any circle shapes around us.” Then look around the room. “That’s right, the ______ is a circle shape.”

Cylinder. In California, first graders learn the cylinder shape. Cylinder shapes in my lid collection are from deodorant and assorted hair product lids.

Keep Collecting. Try talking math while you do the first two math skills with toddlers and preschoolers. And since you’ve captured a glimpse of the great skills you can teach with lids, collect more lids until you have about 150. The next blog will feature more math skills children can learn from laundry detergent lids.



  1. Preschool Math, Amanda Morgan posted August 9, 2008. www.notjustcute.com/2008/08/09/math. Accessed 5/27/2015.


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