Sorting is more than just a child’s play; it’s a window into their cognitive development. As they classify and group objects, they’re not only preparing for mathematical concepts but also learning essential life skills. So, the next time you see a child grouping their toys or separating leaves from flowers, know that they’re on a journey of understanding the world, one sort at a time.
But easily the best way to teach sorting is to tie it to some kind of activity or game, to keep the children engaged while teaching important skills.
Why Sorting is a Fundamental Skill for Preschoolers
Sorting is a fundamental skill that often goes unnoticed, yet it plays a pivotal role in a child’s developmental journey. From the moment they’re born, children are constantly trying to make sense of the world around them. One of the ways they do this is by classifying and sorting objects based on various attributes. But why is this skill so crucial for preschoolers?
1. The Natural Instinct to Sort
Children, by nature, are curious beings. They often engage in sorting activities without even being taught. Whether it’s grouping toys by color, size, or function, kids have an innate desire to create order in their environment. This natural inclination towards sorting is not just a play-based activity; it’s the foundation of early mathematical understanding.
2. Sorting as a Precursor to Mathematical Concepts
Before diving into complex mathematical operations like addition or multiplication, children first need to grasp basic concepts. These include identifying attributes, matching objects based on these attributes, and eventually sorting them. Sorting, in essence, is the next step after matching. When children group objects based on a particular feature, they’re laying the groundwork for future mathematical endeavors.
3. Building Logical Thinking
Sorting helps children recognize similarities and differences. By grouping objects based on certain attributes, kids learn that items can have multiple features by which they can be categorized. This process of assessing an object’s characteristics and then organizing it with similar items is the beginning of logical thinking – a skill vital for both math and everyday life.
4. Sorting in Daily Life
Sorting isn’t just a classroom activity; it’s a life skill. From organizing laundry to arranging dishes in a cupboard, we use sorting skills daily, of course! By giving children opportunities to sort, we’re equipping them with tools to regulate their environment, providing them with a sense of organization and control.
5. Enhancing Fine Motor Skills
Beyond cognitive development, sorting activities also aid in the development of fine motor skills. As children pick up, move, and group objects, they’re refining the precise movements they’ll need as they grow.
6. The Developmental Sequence of Sorting
Sorting skills evolve as children grow:
- Identifying Attributes: Before sorting, children need to recognize the attributes of objects, like color, shape, and size. They may not have the vocabulary for these attributes yet, but they can still recognize them.
- Matching: Here, kids focus on the sameness of an attribute, pairing objects that share a feature.
- Sorting: This is an extension of matching, where children group objects based on one or more attributes.
- Comparing: Children determine which object has more or less of a particular attribute.
- Ordering: This involves arranging objects based on increasing or decreasing amounts of an attribute.
7. Nurturing Sorting Skills
Parents and educators can nurture sorting skills by:
- Setting up sorting stations with defined sets for beginners and allowing advanced sorters to create their own categories.
- Using real-life objects for sorting activities.
- Encouraging children to discuss their sorting rationale.
- Asking open-ended questions to stimulate thinking.
Read on below to discover some of the best sorting activities that you can try out with your preschoolers now!
Preschool Sorting Activities
1. Colored Objects
Find some colorful objects like a pack of elastic bands, plastic buttons or beads, or craft pompoms, and allow the children to interact with them. Allow them to explore the various colors.
Then, ask that the children sort the objects into groups based on their colors.
This will encourage the children to take note of the colors and memorize where those colors are to be sent as part of the game.
This game is great because it helps to teach children how to observe different characteristics but also teaches them some basic hand-eye coordination.
2. Make Cereal Bracelets or Necklaces
In order to enjoy this activity, you will need to buy a box of fruit loops and lay them out on the table.
Give each child a length of string that fits around their wrists, and then encourage them to add the fruitt loops to the string like beads.
This will encourage the children to be creative, as they will have to make choices based on what color combinations they like.
As they seek out specific colors, they will naturally begin to sort the froot loops out.
You can make this even more effective by asking them to make a consistent pattern.
This particular activity may require that you purchase some extra elements to maximize the fun and effectiveness.
Learning how to categorize things in the world around them is a great way for children to learn how to process their lives and the things that happen in them.
This can include categorizing zoo and farm animals or categorizing fruit and vegetables.
Grab some animal toys, and ask the children to move them into their distinct ‘farm’ or ‘zoo’ categories!
4. Doll House
If your preschool has access to a dollhouse, then this is a great activity that can be used to help children better understand what each room in a home is used for, and how each of the items in those rooms fit in.
Take all of the furniture out of the dollhouse, and then ask the children to categorize the furniture and appliances based on the rooms they belong in together.
This allows the children to memorize where each item goes, to better understand that certain things belong in certain places.
It also allows the children to be a little bit creative, as they can choose how to organize each room!
Kids love playing with blocks. Though they are simple, blocks are incredibly versatile because you can do so many things with them, such as stack them or use them to build structures.
You can also use blocks to teach sorting, by asking the children to sort the blocks based on different defining characteristics.
For example, you could tell the children to sort all of the blocks that belong to the same color group or ask them to sort them based on their unique shapes and sizes.
This allows you to find many different ways to ask them to sort, while still using the same objects.
6. Tidying Games
You can also implement the values of sorting into end-of-day tasks such as tidying up.
When you ask the children to tidy up toys, materials, and other objects, you could ask them to correctly organize each thing into their own distinct storage areas.
For example, you could label one box in the room “Toys”, and another box “Paints”. This will teach the children to identify the shared characteristics of objects and then sort accordingly.
This also helps to make the often laborious chore of tidying a little more engaging for the children.
7. Play “Shop”
A great way that kids can learn to sort things is to play “Shop”. Have one child play a shopkeeper who must fulfill the orders of customers at the shop.
Have the other children request certain groups of items, such as vegetables, and then the shopkeeper must hand over all items that meet that description.
Make sure to change who is the shopkeeper every few times.
8. Odd One Out
To further develop the ability to sort, it can also be useful to teach the children to recognize when certain things have not been sorted correctly.
Take the categorizing game from earlier, but set out the things in categories for the children. Then, ask the children to identify anything you have put into the wrong category.
For example, you could place a lion into the “Farm Animals” category.
This one may be a little more challenging, but you could also have the children sort things based on weight.
For example, you could ask them to hold an item and determine whether it is “heavy” or “light”, and then put it into the correct category.
This helps to teach the kids how to distinguish differences in slightly more abstract ways that are not immediately visible.
Check out the Montessori activity called “baric tablets” for more details!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Skills Does Sorting Develop?
The act of sorting teaches numerous skills, such as basic literacy and numeracy, but also teaches children to develop schemas that can be used to help them understand the world around them.
How Do You Make A Sorting Activity Fun?
A simple way to make any sorting activity fun is to include elements that the children enjoy.
For example, try incorporating animal toys into categorization activities so that there is an element of play and creativity involved with the activity.
Why Is Sorting Important In Daily Life?
Sorting is very important in daily life because it helps us to make sense of an often chaotic world to help promote a sense of calm. It also makes it easier to carry out tasks.