Nuts and Bolts: A Sorting Activity

What You Need:

  • Various small objects found in a tool box (screws, nuts, bolts, nails, washers, etc…)
  • A sandwich bag

What You Do:

Give your child a sandwich bag full of nuts, bolts, screws, and washers.  Tell her that you need her help. Together you’re going to organize these objects and clean up mom or dad’s toolbox. Now let the sorting begin!

Several key skills make up the nuts and bolts of kindergarten math. Here are 3 ideas for using your actual nuts and bolts (and screws!) to give your child some practice.

Sorting: Give your child the bag and ask her to organize the contents into groups. When she’s finished, ask her why she chose to group them in that way. Then challenge her to find another way to group the objects.  For example, she might put the screws and nails together because they’re all the same length, or the washers and bolts together because they are round. Another way to sort might be screws and nails together because they're silver, and other pieces because they're brass.

Creating Sets: Can your child match things up that work together? Talk to her about the way in which the objects in the toolbox are used. For example, screws and bolts work together as a pair. Ask her to group them. Then ask some questions.  “Are there enough of each?”, “Which one has more or less?”, or, “How many more do you need to have equal groups?” This will help your child to see the relationships between the sets, which will serve her well in first grade, as she begins to move to more abstract math concepts.

Patterning: When many parents think of patterning practice, they think of beads. But kids can practice patterning with other objects, too! Ask your child to dump out his bag of materials on a table and show him how to create what teachers call an AB pattern. For example, washer, bolt, washer, bolt.  Ask your child if he can add to the pattern. What comes next? Once he’s comfortable with the AB pattern, challenge him to create his own pattern, for you to extend. Can he trick you with more and more intricate patterns? Let him try! And be sure to play along. Building patterns teaches children to look for relationships, which will help them later with number combinations.

Math experts agree that young children need many opportunities to practice their math knowledge. Playing "Nuts and Bolts" with your child gives her the opportunity to work on three of them. And you might even get your tool box cleaned up, too!

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