Socks are a delightfully important part of a young child’s life. They’re often the first article of clothing he learns to put on by himself, and they’re almost certainly the first he yanks off. It’s probably safe to say you have a large collection of socks in your home, some in a dresser drawer, others under the couch. They make great puppets, of course, but other playful uses build math, language, and creative-thinking skills. Try these on for size:
- Plant a sock garden. Dress your child in a large, throwaway pair of socks, pulling them up over his pants for maximum coverage. Take a walk in the garden, a field, or the woods. Back at home, notice how the socks are covered in tiny particles. Butterfly them with scissors and place them seedy side up on a container of soil. Sprinkle them with more soil, place them in the sun, water them, and watch the garden grow.
- Measure toe-to-toe. Ask your child to guess how many socks long the couch is. Find out by placing socks of the same size end-to-end along the bottom. Try this with the rug or the dining room table. Which is the longest? It’s a cool way to learn about measurement and comparison.
- Create a pet toy. For a cat, your child can fill an old baby sock with loose catnip (available at most grocery stores) and sew it closed. For a dog, she can put a tennis ball in the toe of a long sock and then knot the ankle. Playing with the pets and their new toys is good exercise and a fun bonding experience.
- Sort the laundry. Every time you do, you’re using the math skills of matching and classifying. Let your child in on the fun by inviting him to separate the socks into piles by color, size, or texture. Then have him pair them. When he folds them together, he’s exercising fine motor skills.
- Tell a stocking story. What happens to all of the socks that go missing in the laundry? Encourage your child to invent a few short tales of washing machine adventure, and then come up with some of your own. You can also tell a longer one together by taking turns as narrator. Write them all down in a blank notebook and illustrate them.
- Make a "soothie." For your medicine cabinet, help your child fill a cotton sock with rice and sew it shut. When you need a heating pad, pop it in the microwave for one minute. Save an empty sock, also in the cabinet, to fill with ice for bumps and bruises.