The foundation for childrens’ mathematical success begins in the earliest years of childhood, namely in toddlerhood. Many parents believe that counting and number identification are the first math skills children learn, but emergent mathematics begin even before counting, and these basic skills are a precursor to more complex concepts. In fact, even the basic skill of sorting, which is an excellent toddler activity, is an indicator of mathematical success in elementary school.
Sorting is the ability to identify similarities and difference among a set of objects, and to group and name them accordingly. This kind of organization is prominent in an assortment of disciplines, including math, science, and music.
Sorting objects is one of my favorite teaching activities within the home because there are so many opportunities to teach it. This post is actually a result of an impromptu sorting activity I did with William.
Looking at Corinne’s (eleven months) toys scattered on the floor, I asked William to help me pick them up, but did so by asking him to pick up toys with specific attributes such as toys that rattle, toys that were soft, toys that had buttons and made noise, etc.
This was more challenging than grouping the toys by color or size, and it required William to manipulate some of the toys and decipher if they fit into the parameters I had given.
Here are some more easy sorting activities that you can help your toddler with in your home that require no prep at all!
1. Putting away silverware
2. Sorting laundry to be washed
3. Putting away own laundry (sorting into appropriate drawers)
4. Sorting groceries according to where they go (refrigerator, pantry, or cabinet)
5. Putting away toys
6. Sort mixed veggies (who says you can’t play with your food?)
7. Pictures to be placed into a photo album (by event or topic)
As childrens’ skills develop, so should the complexity of the sorting tasks. Be creative. Next time your child is helping you clean up toys, ask for all the toys with a specific attribute, such as color, or size, then objects of a certain kind, or with a specific function, such as toys that make noise, can be snuggled, stacked, or rolled. This also has the potential to be a great indirect vocabulary lesson, too!