Let’s play Sock Match!

Can you work out which socks belong together? And can you place them in the right colour bowl?

how to play the sock match game

With Take 10 to Play, brought to you with LEGO® DUPLO®, you can discover 10 brilliant 10-minute games to play with your child. Each game is specially designed to boost early learning, and to help you and your child create and connect together – for a smile-filled session of family fun.

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This game is great for helping your child to recognise ‘same’ and ‘different’, and understand the concept of sorting and matching – both important numeracy skills that pave the way to an easy grasp of early maths.

Here’s how to play Sock Match

What you’ll need:

  • 3 different-coloured pairs of socks
  • paper
  • coloured pens
  • sticky tape
  • 3 small bowls, boxes or baskets

If you have different coloured LEGO® DUPLO® bricks, you can use them instead of – or as well as – the socks.

How to play

  • Note the 3 different colours of the socks
  • Make a colour label for each colour, using the paper and coloured pens
sock match game making colour labels
  • Stick a label on each of your bowls, boxes or baskets
sock match step 2
  • Unpair the socks and put them in a mixed-up pile on the floor.
sock match step 3
  • Encourage your child to find the socks that match in colour
how to play sock match child finding sock
  • When they’ve got a matching pair, your child has to put them into the bowl, box or basket with the right colour label
how to play sock match game putting sock in bowl

Extra ways to play Sock Match – for extra learning!

  • Add more socks to the pile
  • Count the socks together as your child finds them: 1 black sock, 2 black socks…
  • Add other items of clothing (T-shirts, pants) and sort by colour and/or by type of clothing
  • Ask your child to sort and count by size: 4 big socks, 2 small socks
  • Have a sorting and matching race (with a sibling or yourself): who can find 6 socks first? Who can find 1 black sock and 2 red socks first?

5 more ideas for number-based games and activities to help your child to count, from educational psychologist Naomi Burgess

1. Sing counting songs

Counting songs, like:

  • This Little Piggy
  • 1, 2, 3 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive
  • 1,  2, Buckle my Shoe

are great for any time of day.

These are also important for 1-to-1 correspondence (see A note about 1-to-1 correspondence, below).

mum counting her child's toes

You probably know loads of these little ditties already! And a little later in your child’s development, you’ll see them take these further with songs which help them count backwards like There were 10 In The Bed or 10 Green Bottles.

Why playing number games with your child matters

Knowing numbers can help us make sense of the physical world. They aren’t just about sums and they are absolutely not about getting things right or wrong. They can assist with pattern-forming, building, sorting and much more.

So let’s see how a bit more knowledge of numbers can help us introduce children learn to manipulate their physical world.

The following:

  • shapes
  • directions
  • making patterns
  • sorting
  • building
  • measuring (weight, height, size)
  • designing
  • perspectives
  • number words
  • language
  • counting

are all part of our Wonderful Number World. Our current curriculum models can make numbers so narrow… Ooh, there’s a number word: narrow, the opposite of wide!

Numbers are great and wonderful fun and it can be quite sad when children are scared of numbers, so let’s go for it!

2. Use number words around the house

Colour, size and shape are the 3 most obvious attributes that young children start to notice, and learning to identify, categorise, and sort will help your child be ready for maths, science and reading.

So, why not start with using number words around the house? It’s something you probably do with food all the time: “Would you like the orange vegetables or the green ones first?”

You might even add in shapes here: “the big orange carrot cubes”or the “little round green peas” and now you are incorporating size, colour and shape. Just keep on doing this.

child counting oranges

When putting laundry away, use the word ‘pair’ (don’t forget that trousers and pants are pairs, as well as socks, because they have 2 spaces – 1 for each leg).

It’s great doing all this because it also gets your child to enjoy tidying, and you can start counting in pairs.

When you count in groups, it is called repeated addition to start with, as well as multiplication… so gradually you start to chant “2, 4, 6, 8” and just extend it bit by bit as they get older.

Before you know it, it will become second nature, and your child won’t even associate it with those dreaded times tables.

3. Get aboard a number train

Number trains are a good way of introducing number recognition and counting.

LEGO DUPLO’s Number Train can bebuilt and rebuilt. It comes with 2 child figures and a cat toy for added fun when learning numbers.

There are so many games you can play with this train to help your child learn to count. You could, for example, take each number brick and get your child to put the correct number of the same object of their choice next to each number brick, so 1 pencil next to the ‘1’ brick, 2 teddies next to the ‘2’ brick, 3 pebbles next to the ‘3’ brick and so on.

Numbers are great, numbers are fun, and just everywhere all the time – on buses, on front doors, in postcodes.

So just playing Spot the Number whenever you are out will offer your child so much, too. Don’t forget a lovely set of magnetic numbers for your fridge or maybe some foam numbers to stick on the tiles when your child is in the bath?

4. Play with shape sorters and jigsaws

Introducing your child to a shape sorter or ‘form board’ helps motor coordination and teaches them to pay visual attention to size and shape; they can do it alone or with you.

And don’t forget that all-important language in here. Remember to discuss how the shapes are the ‘same’ and ‘different’.

shape sorter

Once they begin to get the hang of those 3D shapes, start them on simple jigsaws. You might find that if your child takes to them easily, they might want to turn the pieces over and tessellate them without the picture.

The maths concepts in here are fundamental, and tessellation is the basis of mosaics too: just look at the complexity of the ubiquitous British tiled path!

5. Get out the building blocks

Building with blocks or shapes – simple or complex – is also fundamental. It develops motor control and it develops language: you can build ‘high’, you can build ‘long’, make horizontal patterns and so on.

Add in the language of counting, and asking them what they are making. Now consider making the task more interesting, using alternate colours and making even more complex patterns.

See if they can do their own or copy yours. As they get older, they can create their own landscapes with building blocks and kits, making towns and villages.

child playing with building blocks

They can thread buttons, and eventually get into trying something like French knitting and making long sausages.

Children also like to make more mechanical constructions, using spanners and screwdrivers to make trucks with moveable wheels. There are some brilliant ones available.

A note about games that develop 1-to-1 correspondence

1-to-1 correspondence is important for accurate counting. It means being able to match 1 object to 1 other object.

When children count they often miss a cube or a block, or even when they count a row of children.

You can practise 1 to 1 correspondence in all sorts of different contexts.

Count up 1 at a time on a set of blocks, count as you climb up steps and then remember to ask how many you have climbed.

Laying the table is great: finding the right number of forks and spoons. It might seem obvious to you that 4 people will need 4 forks but I bet if you ask your 3-year-old that question, they might have to think hard.

Use paving stones to count from your gate to a friend’s gate, put the numbers on the stones in chalk. When they are a bit older, they can play hopscotch.

Another game you can try is throwing a dice and making the right number of steps on a tiled floor. Make it harder by using 2 dice. Introduce a concept of steps backwards and forwards to add to the complexity.

About our expert

Naomi Burgess is an educational psychologist, a registered practitioner with the Health Professions Council and a Chartered Member of the British Psychological Society

Pics: Getty

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