multi colored foam blocks for kindergarten sorting activities

Kindergarten sorting activities

Sorting is an important math skill that kindergarteners will explore in their first year of school. It helps them make sense of the world around them and figure out how things are related (or different!).

Teaching sorting skills can be easy – You just need to provide children with some simple activities that they can do at home. In this blog post, we will share some fun and easy DIY sorting activities for kindergarteners.

P.S.: If you already know I mean by sorting, you can jump to

What do sorting activities teach children?

Let’s start by talking about the importance of sorting! Sorting activities help children learn to identify similarities and differences in objects. They also teach children how to group objects together based on these similarities and differences.

Sorting activities are also a great way to help kindergarteners practice early math concepts like classification, patterning, and estimation. In short, when you’re teaching math, sorting is an excellent hands-on activity that touches on multiple subjects.

In Kindergarten, children will be asked to practice sorting materials as part of their curriculum. They will begin sorting by categorizing objects based on simple attributes like grouping by the same color, organizing buttons by the number of button holes, or be asked to sort things based on size. There are many, many ways to have students sort, which is why I believe it’s important to provide opportunities to practice this skill outside of the classroom.

How do you teach sorting in Kindergarten?

multi colored foam blocks for kindergarten sorting activities
These blocks are great for Kindergarten sorting activities. Students can sort in different ways like by size, shape or color. More advanced students may also notice that some squares have circles in the middle.

Not every teacher or parent will have the same approach to teaching sorting skills… And that’s okay! Here are some simple tips to get you started, though.

Child-led learning: Sorting their way

This is just my approach, but I prefer to let children explore the concept first before coming up with sorting rules. This way, children can try comparing, organizing, and grouping on their own without feeling restricted to sorting rules that you’ve given them. You may be surprised at the ideas they come up with!

Here’s how I practice this with kindergarten sorting activities:

Directions: Give your child a collection of objects and ask them how they could group them together. Let them practice sorting and ask them why they chose to group them the way they did. This is called the sorting rule.

Practice again: Once they have finished, pile the items together and ask them to sort them again using a different sorting rule. This emphasizes that the same object can have more than one attribute. For example, if they were sorting a pile of toy animals, they might first sort by color or size. But, they could also group them by how animals move, the beginning sounds of the names, etc!

If you’re in a group: Have the kiddos compare their technique in small groups by explaining to their friends which sorting rule they used. Did anyone group items the same way?

plastic fruits and vegetables sorted into categories based on size (small, medium, large)
There are so many sorting activities with a simple bag of pretend food. How many other ways could you sort the items in this picture?

Use manipulatives!

Worksheets and picture cards are great and definitely have their place. But, I prefer play-based and hands-on learning whenever possible. Using manipulatives provides a sensory experience that many children benefit from.

So, when sorting, try to include a variety of objects. But limit the number of items you give. Having too many variations can be overwhelming. For example, if you are sorting shapes, limit the different shapes to 3 or 4.

Here are some things you might sort:

  • Natural materials from outside
  • Toy animals (you can get these at dollar stores, craft stores like Michaels or buy them in bulk online)
  • Sorting beads
  • Craft materials
  • Wooden geometric shapes
  • Anything else you may have an abundance of!

DIY activities to practice sorting

Here’s how I approach teaching sorting and some of my favorite sorting activities. Keep in mind, this is not over one sitting! Students need practice and repetition to deeply grasp a concept.

1. Let the child explore sorting skills on their own

As I mentioned above – Give them lots of practice creating their own methods of sorting. Encourage them to explain their choices by asking questions like “how did you sort your objects?” or “could you sort them a different way?”

2. Use sorting mats

Sorting mats are simply just a piece of paper with categories printed on them to guide your children’s sorting. They are also super easy to DIY! To create a reusable sorting mat, simply place a piece of white paper inside of a plastic page protector and draw your categories out on the plastic sheet with a dry-erase marker. Alternatively, you could print the simple graph I made below. Hint: Print it double-sided if you want to use both!

There are also tons of awesome templates onling if you Google sorting mats!

3. Get crafty

Sorting mats are fun and all, but they’re not overly exciting. Why not try something tactile like sticky window sorting by Hands On As We Grow?! Or you could create a busy bag like this one by Learning and Exploring Through Play.

4. Simple kindergarten sorting activities you can do at home

Here are three super easy DIY sorting activities that you can try at home:

Activity #1: Basic sorting

Materials needed: A variety of small objects that can be sorted (e.g. buttons, coins, beads, etc.) and a sorting tray or container (this could be a muffin tin, egg carton, small dish, etc.).

Directions: Place the sorting tray in front of your child. Show your child how to sort the objects into groups. For example, you could sort the objects by color, size, or type. Encourage your child to experiment with different ways of sorting objects.

Activity #2: Integrate sorting into home activities

Have you thought about chores as sorting? Some of them are! Activities like putting the dishes, laundry, or toys away are all activities that require sorting. Next time you’re doing these things, try involving your little ones.

Activity #3: Sorting outside

I love a good outdoor learning opportunity – And sorting is definitely one! Challenge your little ones to gather as many fallen items as they can and then sort them. You could integrate art by getting them to put multiple colors on a page and then head outside to find color matches in nature (you could even try making nature-based paints from some of the items!) or make it a STEM activity by using the sorted materials to build structures.

Other posts you may enjoy

Once your child has sorted their items, they may be interested in graphing the results! This is a fun way to practice counting and other important mathematical skills. Get my freebie printable in this post.

Do you have a preschooler at home? Try taking math outdoors with these ideas for math in nature.

Read about other important math concepts that your Kindergartener will learn in this post or, click here for preschool math concepts.

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