My children have always loved to sort and create patterns whether it was with the cereal on their high chair tray or the utensils on the dinner table. Encouraging their natural inclination to rearrange the objects before them has led us to find creative yet simple ways to reinforce known skills and practice new ones. Today my son and I played with his goldfish crackers by having him sort them first into like colors:
When we started this activity there were more colors involved, but by the time I retrieved my camera, the purple fish had all been eaten. In the end we had three piles: orange, red, and green. An advanced way to sort by color is to have your child create groups with equal number of multiple colors. For example, in this picture there would be two groups, each with one green, three red, and four orange. Had we gotten around to this exercise before Noah realized he was starving, we could have created even more and larger groups.
Another way to practice sorting is to ask your child to sort the items by more than one category. For example, the first picture shows the goldfish crackers sorted by color, but what other ways could they be sorted? Noah chose to also sort them into the categories “broken” and “whole.” Practicing sorting by various methods is an early math skill that reinforces lessons they will learn in elementary school. He could have also chosen to sort them by those with smiles and those without. If your child masters one method of sorting, challenge them to find another!
Finally, allow your child to create patterns. Encourage them to start with simple A-B-A-B patterns, but then build up to more intricate ones. Our options were dwindling as we neared our learning with food session today as Noah continued to eat the manipulatives, but we did manage this simple A-B-C repeating pattern. Again, patterns are a great way to encourage toddlers and pre-schoolers to practice the thinking skills that they will need for future analytical thinking. It’s also a great way to pass the time with your little one and an awesome excuse to play with your food.