I’ve posted about sorting activities for preschoolers before. Several times, in fact. Why? Because it is such an important foundational math skill. Attribute sorting has real life applications, as does all other math, but we sort and classify much more frequently than we might realize.
As adults we are constantly finding similarities and differences in things.
Sorting activities are the perfect way to help children learn to classify their world from the start.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a list of sorting activities for preschoolers.
Sorting Activities In the Real World
We may not even realize it at the time, but we also are constantly using attributes to make choices. This happens several times a day. For example, let’s take a look at my day so far…
My husband got up with the kids this morning, so when he woke me I went right downstairs to make breakfast. I first selected the right bowl to make oatmeal (sorting), then I rummaged through a drawer to find the right measuring cup (sorting).
After making my husband a bowl of oatmeal, I headed back upstairs to get ready for the day. This included searching for my grey eyeliner, not blue or brown or purple (more sorting).
After getting dressed and brushing my teeth with my own toothbrush and not accidentally grabbing my husband’s (come one, I know you’ve done it, too), I selected my shoes based on how much they would contrast my shirt (another form of attribute sorting), and I selected shoes that matched each other.
Then I packed up the kids and headed to the grocery store. At the store I shopped for groups of similar items all at one time since they are shelved near one another and then bagged up my groceries according to like items (even more sorting) and when I got home I again grouped them according to their attributes and placed them in the appropriate cupboards on the appropriate shelves (still sorting).
After the groceries were put away the kids and I cleaned up the toys in the front room by putting each toy in a specific basket. Cars in one basket, dress up clothing in another, trains in another, etc. Then, at lunch William and Corinne helped me sort through the bin of cups for their matching animal sippies.
And we continue to sort…this only covers my morning, but you get the picture.
Sorting is a life skill and opportunities are everywhere! Not only that, but toddlers and preschoolers love to sort. Preschoolers love to play with the attribute buttons, which is what these color and shape sorting activities for preschoolers are all about.
Color and Shape Sorting Activities for Preschoolers
The following are four activities for introducing sorting using attribute buttons.
Before introducing any new concept, I always allow my students to play with the materials before I ask them to do something specific. When I gave the bin of buttons to my preschoolers, they immediately began sorting on their own, which is fairly common.
Free play allows children a relaxed environment to discover similarities and differences on their own, which helps develop their critical thinking skills.
Sorting By Color
The next activity is the usually the easiest for toddlers and preschoolers to grasp. sorting by color. Color is easily recognized and most children will begin picking out their favorite color as soon as they have the buttons in front of them.
Basic color sorting can be done with colors mats, bowls, or just construction paper.
Since my students already have a bit of experience in color sorting, I placed colored shapes (the same shapes as the buttons) in front of them to serve as sorting mats. I wanted to see how well they could see through the shapes to still sort by color.
Sorting By Shape
Sorting by shape is typically more difficult than sorting by color. Children not only have to ignore the color, but they also have to look closely at the shapes to notice defining attributes that make it the same of different from another shape.
For this activity I used the same sorting mat shapes in the above activity and challenged my children to place the shape buttons on the matching shape mat.
Sorting By Color And Shape
The final activity involves sorting by two attributes. This is by far the most challenging of the four activities. Sorting by two attributes poses a couple of problems for a preschooler to work through.
First, they must conceptually understand the difference of three groups. Two of those groups have only characteristic that make it a group, while the middle group has two. This means that the middle group has attributes that make it fit into either group, which can be confusing for preschoolers, but not impossible.
I invited my children to first find all the green buttons. Then, I asked them to find the square buttons and place them in a second group. Then, we picked through the two groups to find the green and square buttons.
More Sorting Activities for PreschoolersThe Benefits of Sorting Activities Pasta Sort Three Ways Six Ways to Sort Bottle Caps
Also, please take a look at these excellent websites featuring more sorting activities.Sorting It All Out In Preschool by Teach Preschool Teaching Sorting In Pre-K by PreKinders Sorting By Attributes by Kindergarten Kindergarten
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.