Childhood Enrichment Activity: Sorts of Sorting

Here’s an educational childhood enrichment activity that works for children all ages.  It’s a “sort.”  A sort is simply this:  a child looks through different objects and places them into bins based on different characteristics.  Kids love it, and it keeps their busy hands busy while challenging them.  You may be wondering how sorts help childhood development.  Sorting items help develop decision making skills. Children learn to categorize items by comparing and contrasting them based on the items features.  By starting to develop these critical thinking skills, sorting activities will help lay the foundation for math.  Sounds pretty great, huh!

What is the age range for sorts?   This childhood enrichment game can be done at any age:  you can use different materials for different ages, making it appropriate for your child’s developmental needs.

What do you need?   Sorting containers like:  Tupperware, empty food containers (like oatmeal cans), ice cube trays work well for smaller items, paper bags work great too.   Sorting objects- see below.

How do I start it?  For most ages, just place the materials in front of the child and let them make all of the decisions.  If they are a younger toddler they may need guidance as to how to sort i.e. picking the items up, looking at them, and placing them in a container.  When they are done it is always fun to ask them how they created the groups.

Here are some example sorts by age group:

Sorting Games for Toddlers

Photo Sort– Cut out pictures of things they are starting to recognize.  For my son the categories would be dogs, cars, and fruit!!!   Don’t use too many pictures at first.  Try 6-8 pictures.  Get plastic bins or baskets that have the same pictures on the front bin.  Encourage them, and see what happens.

Plastic Animals– You can find these at the dollar store or in the party section at grocery stores.  Kids this age are just learning about animals and are very excited about them.   Include a wide variety of them in different colors.

Shapes and Colors–  Use pictures or blocks of different shapes in a wide variety of colors.  The child may only recognize the colors first, but after doing this sort a few times, they may start to sort by shape.

Sorting Games for Preschool

Noodles– There is such a wide variety of noodles out there, noodle sorting is great fun and they last a long time.  An ice cube tray might be good to sort in for this activity.

Texture– Find items that have similar textures:  fuzzy, smooth, rough

Letters and/or Numbers–  Use the letter magnets or cutouts of the letters and/or numbers.  This is fun at this age because they are starting to recognize their letters.

Sorting Games for School Age

Marbles, Beads, Photos, Postcards, Noodles (everyone loves the noodles),

 Beans, Words, Books (or just book titles), phonics groups like-  tr, br, ch, th, bl, gl….

 Random household items (band aids, toothbrush, hair clip, cup, magnet etc.).

The most important thing is to have fun with your kids; if you child does not enjoy this activity, he/she will not want to do it again. Remember, practice makes perfect so it may take a few times before your child, especially younger children, get the hang of it. Sorting as an early childhood enrichment activity will help you and your child have fun and  develop skills that will last a lifetime!


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