Creating a toddler sorting activity
One of my favorite phases of toddlerhood was when my boys enjoyed grouping and sorting things. I still remember my oldest son getting so annoyed when I would intentionally put a ball in his car storage bin.
I wanted to capitalize on this natural desire for order in a play activity that would work on fine motor skills and identifying colors when we were focusing on learning color names.
With the simple purchase of a bag of colorful pom-poms and pipe cleaners on a recent trip to the dollar store, I was able to create a game in less than five minutes that would accomplish our goals.
How to set up the simple sorting toddler activity
I cut four pipe cleaners in half and made them into eight circles.
Next, I placed the circles onto the floor and then grabbed a handful of pom-poms (about 15) out of the bag, making certain I had a variety of colors, and added them to the play area.
Initially I just spread the items out across the floor and let my son explore the objects.
When we did this activity, we had not previously played with pom-poms. They were an instant hit. He wanted to pick each one up to show me, while he exclaimed “oooo!” Once he had finished his examination of the materials we worked on color identification.
I pointed to each pom-pom and we would work to say the color name together. Next, I asked him to show me a specific color and have him select the pom-pom. He was so proud to identify the colors correctly!
We then shifted the game to work on sorting all of the pom-poms into matching color groups. (I realized later that I only had one pink pom-pom and probably should have picked up at least two, but you learn as you go!)
Our final step of this play activity was to have my toddler put the pom-poms into the circles.
He focused intently on moving the little puffs of material from their color groups to the small rings. He would try to put multiple pom-poms into the circles and when one was full he would move the excess to another circle. He rearranged the colors until he was satisfied that all 15 of the pom-poms were adequately in the pipe cleaner circles.
Easy, quiet and a success!
He was proud to have completed the task and wanted me to admire his work before he moved on to independently playing with something else.
This was a great activity for my toddler and so easy to put together for me as a mom. It was a fabulous way for us to work on some skills quietly while his little brother was napping!
- cognitive development: identifying colors; sorting into groups
- physical skills: fine motor skills development picking up small objects and moving them to a confined space
- communication skills: naming colors
- engaged senses: sight and touch
- pipe cleaners
- (note: pom-poms are not a good play material for babies who still put things in their mouth)
- More challenging – use kid-sized tongs to move the pom-poms into the circles
- Change the medium for travel – use colored stickers on paper with drawn circles/shapes for travel game
Level of mess: