Sorting things is a fun, around the house kids’ activity. It introduces basic scientific procedure that requires analytical thinking. You may remember grade school worksheets that asked you to circle the item that doesn’t belong. A picture of a whale, dolphin, octopus and bear were shown, for example, and you were supposed to circle the unrelated item. You would probably circle the bear, because the other items all live in water. But you could also circle the octopus, because the other items are all mammals. It depends on how you sort the items. Following are a variety of fun sorting activities to stimulate your child’s analytical thinking. They are arranged from easiest to most challenging.
Shapes: Cut squares, circles, triangles and rectangles out of construction paper. Allow your child to sort the items into groups. Consider sorting by shape as well as color.
String: Cut string into three sizes—short, medium and long. Put the pieces in a pile. Have your child sort the pieces according to length. When you’re finished, make three lines–one from the short strings, one from the medium strings, and one from the long strings. Which line is longest?
Socks: Next time you do laundry, have your child help you sort socks.
Utensils: Remove forks, spoons and butter knives from your kitchen utensil drawer. If you have any wooden spoons or other wooden cooking utensils, gather those items also. Bring everything to your kitchen table and allow your child to sort the items. If you normally keep these items in a plastic utensil tray, bring the empty tray to the table and allow your child to sort the items into the tray. (Advanced: Allow your child to try sorting the items with eyes closed. The distinct physical traits of kitchen utensils are ideally suited for this purpose).
Lids: Next time you’re finished with a jar or bottle (milk, soda pop, ketchup, etc.)—anything with a lid on it—rinse it out and save it. When you have a dozen or so containers with lids, try this sorting activity: bring all the containers to your living room floor. Remove the lids and mix them up. Now allow your child to return the lids to their proper containers. (Advanced: Use a timer. See how long it takes to complete the task. Play again—try to improve the time).
Canned goods: Gather a dozen or so canned goods from your cupboards or pantry. Bring them to the kitchen table. Arrange them by how many ounces the items contain. Place them in a line from lowest to highest. Use a magnifying glass to read the information to add a scientific feel to the activity.
Face cards: Take a deck of playing cards. Sort out the face cards by turning each card over one at a time. If the card is not a face card, put it in a pile. If it is a face card, group it by type–jacks with jacks, queens with queens, etc. When you’re finished, rearrange the face cards according to suit—clubs with clubs, diamonds with diamonds, etc. (Advanced: Sort all 52 playing cards).
Bathroom goods: You’ll need several dozen items for this activity. Why so many? –Because it’s visually stimulating. Use a laundry basket to gather several dozen bottles of shampoo and related items from your bathroom. Find things that have a lid and can stand upright. Bottles of shampoo, conditioner, baby powder, hand lotion, nail polish, perfume, a can of shaving cream, stick of deodorant—all work fine. Things like a tube of ointment or bar of soap will not work. (Also exclude cleaning products.) Put the items in a laundry basket and bring them to your living room. Make sure the lids are on tight. Allow your child to arrange the items according to height. Make a line that stretches through the house. (Advanced: Help your child to arrange the items alphabetically).
Kids’ sorting activities offer good old-fashioned fun. They expose your child to basic scientific procedure and stimulate analytical thinking. Sorting games and activities also help to build your child’s attention span and ability to stay focused on one activity. Try grouping several of these activities together in one block of time to more fully nurture your child’s grasp of sorting. Have fun!