Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fabric Sorting (a cheap, easy, fun, & educational toddler activity)

I bought this little plastic egg tray at the dollar store a few days ago with some sorting activities in mind.  We're starting to gather up several bunches of small manipulatives around here, but when Olivia was in need of something to keep her busy yesterday evening I didn't feel like sorting through a bunch of tiny little things.

Instead, I just went to my fabric scrap stash and cut up a bunch of little matching fabric pieces.  The result was a great activity for Olivia that was free (well $1 for the tray), fun, and educational.

Want to make your own to play with?

First you'll need to do a bit of prep.

Deviled egg trays like the one pictured here work great for this activity because there's a big bowl area in the middle for all of the fabric pieces to go when they're mixed up and, of course, the little spots for the eggs make for great little sorting compartments.

Count up the egg spots on your tray (there are 15 on ours... who makes deviled eggs in batches of 7.5?) and snip two matching pieces of fabric for each spot.  In other words, for 15 spots, cut 15 matches (or 30 pieces total).

Now you're ready to play!
You'll probably want to model how the activity goes before turning your kiddo loose.  And while it may feel bossy to take a turn first, kids really like knowing how something is supposed to be done so that, when they do it just like you, they feel a real sense of accomplishment.

When I taught preschool at a Montessori school I prepped activities ("works") like this for the kids in my class all the time.  Why are sorting activities good?

In my own (semi-knowledgeable) opinion, this is why sorting activities like this one are great for little hands and minds:

Kids love sorting!
I haven't yet met a child who didn't enjoy the simple pleasures of some good old-fashioned sorting.  Colors, object pairs, sizes, shapes--if you can think of a way to sort, you're sure to find a kid who's happy to help.

It's great for developing fine motor skills
Kids need a lot of practice using both fine motor and gross motor skills.  They get a lot of fun gross motor skills practice by running around and playing outside, but sometimes it takes a bit more thinking to come up with fine motor activities that are fun for little ones.  The physical act of using their fingers to sort through, pick up, and place small objects is great for little hands.  And it's fun!

Kids are happy when they're focused
If there's one thing I learned from teaching preschool it is this: kids are happy when they're focused.  I think as parents we accuse ourselves of not being fun and loving if we give our kids work to do.  But the truth is, kids love having something real to focus their minds on.  A focused kid is a happy kid.  And it definitely takes a good amount of focus to do sorting activities.

It's good math prep
A couple of days ago I was pestering one of my good friends who teaches kindergarten, asking her what things I could do now with my 2 1/2 year-old daughter to help her get ready for kindergarten.  I was asking her specifically about what I could do by way of math prep and one of the things she mentioned was sorting.  She said that sorting is one of the math activities they do a lot in kindergarten.  And it's never to early to get some good practice in!

My daughter and I had a lot of fun doing this little activity together last night.  She loves getting to do things like this all by herself and I love watching all those little gears turning in her brain while she thinks through things.

After you try this simple fabric version, try branching out to beads, little animal figurines, buttons, marbles, and more!


Find more fun and easy preschool ideas on the Preschool page.  You can also find them by clicking on the Preschool button in the header.  Enjoy!   


Kathy Haynie said...

Oh, I thought you had Olivia sorting out your fabric stash for you...and I was excited to have her take care of mine when you come to visit! Oh, well...she can have fun sorting Grandma's can of scout patches. The little grandkids always love doing that.

And the 15 slots in the egg plate? Because some of them always break while you're making them, and you eat them ahead of time...so you end up with approx 15, right?

Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

Great idea. When I first saw this, I thought she was helping you sort your stash. It could also be fun for slightly older kids to have them group the fabrics into categories...like fabric with flowers, stripes, etc.

EMMA said...

Excellent idea, my daycare kids are going to love this!