A collection of ideas for teaching sorting skills with Pre-K/ Preschool children. Teach children to sort by various attributes, such as by color, by shape, by size, and more.
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Sorting by Color
Paint Sample Cards
These paint sample cards are the kind you can pick up for free at the hardware store. I get different hues of each color for the children to sort.
Beads and Pipe Cleaners
Children sort pony beads by stringing them onto different pipe cleaners. I used a jewelry wire tool to curl the ends of the pipe cleaners so that they wouldn’t poke or scratch anyone.
These are gummy bears, but any kind of gummies could be used for this activity. I drew lines on a paper plate with a Sharpie to make sections for sorting.
These flowers came in a package in the wedding section of a craft store, and the clear plastic flower box also came from a craft store.
Lots of different kinds of math manipulatives can be used to sort by color. I place clear punch cups on each math tray for the children to sort each color into.
I use craft punches to cut out little paper shapes, and draw lines on paper (or print out sorting sheets) to make sections for the paper punches to be sorted into. Children glue the paper punches on the sorting sheet. These are perfect for saving for portfolios. Also, check out the blog post on Paper Punch Leaf Sorting.
Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils
In our Art Center, we have markers, crayons, and colored pencils sorted into clear cups by color. Children learn how to sort the different hues, for example light blue and dark blue go together, pink and red go together, gray and black go together. We also do color mixing activities with paint to show children how these colors are related.
Sorting by Shape
Plastic jewels from a craft store can be sorted by shape and also by color.
These shape buttons were purchased from a school supply catalog. The clear punch cups are labeled with each shape.
Children sort these shape photo cards into the different rows of the pocket chart. I had originally planned to create a printable for this, but could not find enough pictures for all of the shapes. I found this set on Montessori for Everyone, and rather than reinvent the wheel, I purchased this set for $4.99.
To make the paper shape pieces, I printed paper pattern blocks from the Math Their Way site. I printed them all the same color so that children would be sorting by shape and not by color. Children glued these onto a sorting sheet. These are great for saving for portfolios.
Sorting by Size
Pom poms from a craft store can be purchased in a variety of sizes. Children sort them into small, medium, and large jars.
These stars were cut from small, medium, and large craft punches. If you do not have those available, clipart could be printed in different sizes for this activity. Children glue them onto small, medium, and large paper.
These were fairly inexpensive at a hardware store. I bought 3 boxes with 3 different sizes of bolts. The 3-sized cups came from a set of stacking cups.
Children sort the bear manipulatives into the small, medium, and large jars. We also sometimes use the Bear Family printable.
Sorting by Type
Seashells can be collected at the beach or purchased in a bag at a craft store. This tray came from Big Lots and was originally a planter, but it makes a great sorting tray.
These keys were donated to my classroom. Children can sort them in different ways.
I always have tons of buttons that I collect from the extras on new clothing. Ask families to collect them also. These are sorted by the type of hole they have: 2 holes, 4 holes, & a loop hole on the back. They can also be sorted by shape or color.
These “baby toys” came from a craft store in the area where baby shower items are sold. The kids really like these. We use a plastic chip tray for a sorting tray.
A variety of bells were purchased at a craft store.
Children sort coins by type: penny, nickel, dime, quarter.
Children can sort seeds into cups, or sort and glue them on paper.
Children sort the four types of nuts into four bowls. We use the tongs to pick up the nuts which adds fine motor practice to the activity.
Children sort the paper punches by type onto a sorting sheet.
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