This blog explores how you can encourage mathematical development whilst your child carries out household chores.   We all know sometimes it can be much easier and faster to just do it ourselves. But it’s important for children to understand basic life skills, learn to be helpful, and encourage independence. Moreover, not only are you reducing your own workload, but it provides an opportunity to teach them valuable mathematical lessons during the process!   With many children, there is a strong relationship between their interest in helping and their ability to do the job! So, it’s important to consider chores that will be of more interest to them. For example, colour matching the clean laundry may be more interesting than hoovering their bedroom!   Attention to the effort your child is making, rather than the accomplishment itself, encourages more effort and makes it less likely they will give up on future tasks when they get hard. Read more about the psychology behind this theory here! So in order to encourage early interest and effort, why not try using comments like ‘I can see how hard you are working’?   Why not try some of these suggestions;  
  1. Sorting the laundry
Encourage the use of mathematics whilst your child sorts the laundry. Ask them to match socks and count how many pairs they have folded.
  • You could also suggest that they split the piles into colours or into items owned by each family member.
  • Make this exercise fun by asking your child to note which member of the family has the most items that needed washing that week!
  1. Loading the dishwasher
 Can your child work out how many meals your family have eaten by the number of dishes to go in the dishwasher?
  • Were these meals main meals, snacks or desserts based on the size of the plates?
  • Ask them to try and remember how many pairs of knives and forks they have stacked and how many plates.
  • Encourage your child to look at the shape of each item they are loading and organise them in size order.
This is also a good opportunity to encourage your child to look at the different material types used in your house, e.g. can they distinguish between plastic, ceramic, and glass?  
  1. Unloading and putting away groceries
Why not ask your child to sort your grocery items into food groups? Encourage them to work out what meals could be made with each item.
  • Try asking them to sort the food into a protein, carbohydrate and two appropriate vegetables to go with it?
  • If they become interested in food particularly, this can be a great opportunity to encourage the development of an important life skill, but also to further their mathematic skills by encouraging them to read recipes and measure out the amount of each item they would need in order to prepare a particular meal?
  • You could further this for older children by asking them to try and remember measurement units e.g. how many milliliters are there in a litre?
  1. Toy Clean up
This may be a tedious task when done on your own, but perhaps you could involve the children in putting clothes and toys away with a game!
  • Ask them to quickly find a container the right shape and size for each item.
  • You could also suggest that they count puzzle pieces to ensure each piece is returned safely?
  • Another suggestion is to ask your children to put their books away in either height order or in alphabetical order.
  • Your child could also time how long it takes to clear up the room and aim to beat that time each day, to add some healthy competition to the task!
  If you’re struggling to encourage your children to take on household chores, take a look at this advice from Bright Horizons. Do you have any household tasks that your children enjoy? Have you found a way to incorporate learning into it?