Sorting objects according to shape, size, color, or other physical properties is a wonderful activity that challenges young children to pay close attention and to make some logical choices. For this activity you will want to gather several examples of some sort of appealing object in various shapes, colors, and size. Be careful with small objects because your toddler can swallow them, or they can end up in his nostrils or ears. 1 to 2 years old: Sock or mitten sorting Mix socks/mittens from three pairs and show your toddler how to place them in 2 different piles according to their color or pattern. You may use different items of clothing, such as tops, bottoms or underwear. Use the opportunity to show your toddler how to take them back to the drawer they belong to. 2 to 3 year old: Button sorting Select several different sets of four or more identical buttons from your sewing box. Mix them together in a large bowl then show your toddler how to select one button, place it in a bowl, and then find each of the other buttons that is the same. It can be used with different types of pasta or beans.
1 to 2 years old: Taking a Theme Walk Chose the theme for your walk. Examples: certain colors, shapes, or sizes; certain objects, such as leaves, flowers, stones, sticks, or seeds. You need a basket with a handle, to hold the objects found during the walk. Before you go on the theme walk, make sure that your toddler knows what you will be looking for. Look at some stones together, either real or from a book, talk about what they feel like, what colors and shapes they have, and where stones can be found. Go outside if you will be looking for stones, or around the room, if you will be looking for a certain color. Always follow the child’s lead in the walk. Once back, examine the objects together, talk about them, sort the ones that don’t belong to the category, offer a magnifying glass.
2 to 3 years old: Taking a Theme Walk Use the activity presented above. As an extension, you may encourage the child to choose the theme themselves. After a while, you may try to use as many senses as possible during your walks. For example, one day collect things that smell, such as a sap from a pine tree or a flower blossom. Another day, collect things of particular color. Another day, look for things that are shiny.
1 to 2 years old: Identifying Objects by Feel You need a work tray, paper bag and three objects familiar to the child. Examples: keys, hairbrush, comb, ball. Put the objects and the paper bag on the tray. Examine each object by naming it, saying what is used for and touching it (say: “This is a hairbrush, it feels all prickly.”), allow the child to hold the object and then place them all in the bag.
Ask your child to feel inside the bag and take out a specific object (you may say: “Keep your eyes shut tight. Feel inside the paper bag and take out the… prickly hairbrush.”). Explore the bag with your child. As your child acquires experience and skill, gradually increase the number and complexity of the objects.
Examples: toothpaste, soap, powder puff, bell, orange, etc. Extension: present objects that contrast in some way; for example, present four objects that are either smooth or scratchy, such as a wooden block, a bar of soap, a sponge, and a piece of coarse sandpaper.
2 to 3 years old: Pairing Objects According to Color and Pattern You need 4 towels and 4 napkins (each pair should differ from the others in color and pattern), 2 baskets, a tray or small box. In each basket place one object from each category. Pick one towel from one basket, examine it, touch it, and find its match from the other basket, then place the pair in the tray. Continue with the rest until you finish, then invite your toddler to do the activity.
You may add language by naming the color or pattern. Example: “This towel has red and white stripes. Now look in this basket to find another towel with red and white stripes”. You may use placemats, bowls, cups, and eventually use this activity to sort laundry or utensils.
1 to 2 years old: Identifying “Loud” and “Soft” Sounds You need two small containers with lids, of neutral solid color if possible. Into each container place something that makes a loud or a soft sound when shaken. Make sure that each container sounds markedly different from the other. Things that make loud sounds: marbles, gravel, coins, large buttons. Things that make a soft sound: sand, rice, popcorn, erasers, corks, water.
After filling the containers, fasten the lids tightly with tape or glue. Present the material, by shaking the containers one at a time, and talking about loud and soft sounds. Invite the child to explore the material, and make them available for as long as it presents interest.
As an extension, you may increase the number of containers to three or four. Make this a social activity by inviting the siblings or everyone in the family. You may use these “instruments” to make music together. Enjoy!
2 to 3 years old: Matching Objects by Color You may use two large jars/boxes/trays, either painted in red and blue, or with labels of these colors, and any eight identical objects, such as balls, blocks, small animals, large beads, metal jar lid, four for each color. Sit with your toddler at the table and place the objects in a basket, and the two jars in front of you.
Get a ball from the basket and move it close to each of the painted jars, to compare the colors. Then slowly and deliberately move the ball over the jar of matching color and drop the ball in. Repeat until you have dropped each ball into a jar of matching color and the basket is empty. Empty the balls in the basket and start over, inviting your toddler to do it this time. As the child acquires skill and experience, present other colors. Make this a language activity by naming the colors of the jars and objects involved. Invite the child to sort two colors of construction paper into two boxes for an art project, or to separate red apples from yellow ones for a cooking project