Sorting comes as naturally to young children as running, jumping, and playing make-believe. On the surface, it can seem like an arbitrary skill/activity. In reality, learning to sort out different colors, shapes, sizes, and more has a multitude of benefits. It sets the foundation for some skills children will learn later on. Let’s take a look at some of those benefits.
Why is Sorting Important?
Sorting activities can be utilized across multiple subject areas and help develop a number of skills that are both beneficial at the kindergarten level and provide the basics for higher skills they will learn in subsequent grade levels. Some perks of sorting activities include:
- Learning to pay attention to details
- Building descriptive vocabulary
- Distinguishing differences
- Executive function
- Increased memory and problem-solving
- Fine motor skill practice and
- Numeracy skills
Sorting activities are especially beneficial for youngsters to increase their budding mathematical skills. Being able to manipulate concrete objects helps young children make sense of numbers, which they need to be able to grasp before they can learn higher math concepts. Learning and memorizing numbers by rote won’t do a child much good if they can’t relate them to anything.
What Can Kids Sort?
So, what are some good objects for kids to sort? Just about anything! More than likely, you’ve probably already seen your child sorting things at home, such as Legos, cars, or figurines. Kids naturally do this to make sense of the world around them.
If you’re wanting to do something a little more structured, you can use just about anything you can think of. Or, choose something that your child enjoys playing with, from beads and pipe cleaners to dinosaurs and superheroes. Keep it fun!
Sorting Activities for Kindergarteners
Now that we’ve covered why sorting is so important and what you can use, you’re probably wondering what some of the best sorting activities are. Below, you will find a large assortment of activities perfect for kindergarteners.
We understand that all kids learn differently. That said, we’ve strived to include activities that appeal to different learning styles, whether that’s hands-on, visual, or whole-body.
It is pretty easy to find or make color sorting activities. Using similar objects that come in different colors is a good start. At the kindergarten level, though, you don’t even need the objects to be the same!
Felt boards are great for hands-on experience sorting colors. You can cut up your own objects and even make your own felt board for cheap. But if crafts aren’t your thing, there are plenty of suppliers who offer felt board packs. Some ideas we love are sorting apples or fruit on trees, dinosaurs to their “herd” of like-colored friends, and parking cars at the same color house.
Another fun hands-on activity is sorting colored pasta. (You can easily dye it yourself using food coloring, a little bit of water, and a plastic Ziploc bag.) You can use the same type of pasta in different colors. Or, for some extra learning, use different types of pasta and have your child sort it by color and shape.
Some other objects that you likely already have that are excellent for sorting activities are blocks and pompom balls. Using tweezers to sort the latter is a great way to work on fine motor skills at the same time. Your child can sort them into separate bowls or you can print a color mat for them.
Another colored-related activity is to separate dark things from light ones. Pocket picture sorting charts are fantastic for this. Some ideas for pictures to include are a full moon (light) versus a cave (dark), a flashlight and starry night scene, and a white crayon and black crayon.
Properties (weight, texture, etc)
As your child gets older, they will learn and notice more and more properties about objects. Help them learn some of the basic ones with the activities below.
Scavenger hunts are almost always a hit with kids, no matter what type it is. Have your child go on a rough/smooth scavenger hunt. (This can be done indoors or out.) Your kiddo can either use a basket for each category to place the objects they find or you can print a worksheet for them to draw what they find.
There are tons of items that are excellent for size sorting. Manipulatives are perfect for this, such as counters. (Assuming you have ones that aren’t all one size!) Figurines are also fun and kids will usually have some small ones and some bigger ones of their favorites. If you still can’t find anything that will work, grab a pile of books!
Some sorting activities can be hard to do in person, especially when it comes to weight. Cut and paste worksheets work well for this type of sorting, which can include heavy objects like a washing machine, refrigerator, or elephant.
Do you have a hands-on kid? Try this easy science experiment. Gather an assortment of objects, especially some tricky ones that look big, but are actually lightweight, and vice versa. Ask your child which objects they think will be heavy and light. (Make a chart on a sheet of paper if you want to be extra scientific.) Have your child pick each item up and record whether their predictions were correct. They can sort the objects into a heavy group and a lightweight group.
Temperature is another property that isn’t exactly conducive to hands-on sorting activities. A picture sort (hot/cold) with images of different types of weather and clothing is a quiet substitution. This can include pictures of the sun, snow, coats, shorts, sunglasses, and more.
Math (equal groups, numbers, etc)
As we already mentioned, learning to make sense of numbers is one of the most important aspects of early math. These activities will get the wheels turning in your child’s head all while having fun learning and practicing.
For those that can identify their written numbers already, have them practice what they know with number sort mats. These can be as simple as asking your child to place the right amount of counters or objects underneath each number. Or, to make it a little more fun, have pictures printed with a certain number in each box. You can also do this with felt boards. (i.e. Put 5 yellow apples on the tree. Put 3 red apples on the other tree.)
Buttonhole sorting mats are another fun hands-on, fine motor activity to work on number sense. Have an assortment of buttons with varying amounts of holes at the ready and ask your child to sort them into the correct, matching groups on the mat. This is especially handy for younger children learning lower numbers. You can also use buttons for color sorting activities.
For equal group sorting activities, you can use just about anything: macaroni noodles, cars, straws, beads. Depending on how skilled they are at this, you can either make the group yourself and ask them to make another with the same amount or let them choose how many will be in each group.
Letter sorting activities are a great way to solidify alphabet knowledge and letter sounds. Do you have a magnetic whiteboard and alphabet magnets? Depending on how well your child knows their alphabet (or how big your board is), either write a group of letters (i.e. A-F) or the entire alphabet on the whiteboard. Then, ask your child to place the matching magnet on top of it or underneath that letter.
If your child likes to move around, they will love this activity. Tape an alphabet to a wall, within your child’s reach. Print and cut matching letters. With tape or tacky, have them place the letters on top of the matching one on the alphabet. An alternative for this could be an alphabet placemat.
What kid wouldn’t love learning with an alphabet parking lot activity? This one takes a bit more set-up than most, but is lots of fun for kids. First, you’ll need to print out some worksheets with parking spots labeled with each letter. Or, you could make a giant masking tape parking lot on your floor. Next, you’ll need to cut, print, and tape a letter onto each car. Ask your child to park it in its correct spot.
Some classic stories lend themselves to entertaining sorting activities too. For instance, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” can be read before an activity where your child separates healthy food from junk food. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is a great setup for a size sorting activity, especially if you use items from the story, like chairs and beds.
Love getting outdoors? Do a leaf or flower sort. Spend some time with your little one collecting as many types of leaves or flowers as you can. When you’re finished, you can either group them by colors, size, or shape (long and thin, big and wide).
You can also incorporate sorting activities into your everyday chores. If you have a child who loves helping around the house, ask them to help you sort the silverware into their correct spots in the drawer. If you don’t already, have separate bins for toys-one for dinosaurs, one for cars, one for dolls, one for figurines, etc. It makes things a lot easier to find and helps your child know where to put their toys away. Young kids can help sort clothes too when you’re putting laundry away.
Sorting activities can be incorporated into just about any area of study your child needs to work on, from English to science. They’re extremely beneficial for building core skills, from memory to literacy skills, that will help them throughout their school career. We hope you and your child give some of the activities above a try and find them not only educational, but fun!