Written by Cindy Hovington, Ph.D. Founder of

Montreal, Canada

Photo Credit: Chickadees Wooden Toys

Photo Credit: Chickadees Wooden Toys


Developmental Milestones

Sorting objects by size, shape or colour, is a developmental milestone for cognition (learning, thinking, problem-solving). By age 2, children begin to understand the concept of sorting. By age 4, a child will be able to identify some colours and sort.

Executive Function Skills and Math Skills

Sorting helps children develop EXECUTIVE FUNCTION SKILLS, important brain skills that help with memory, attention and problem-solving. Research shows that the stronger these skills are when a child begins kindergarten, the more likely they are to perform better at school. Executive function skills do not develop on their own, children need to participate in activities that promote these skills. Sorting activities require a child to understand a rule such as “Can you sort these shapes by colour?”, and to maintain this rule in their mind (which builds their memory!). Both of these contribute to stronger executive function skills.

Research has also suggested that learning to sort is one of the many skills that can contribute to stronger math skills later on. An article by Clements and Sarama (Scholastic Early Childhood Today, 2005) suggests, “Discuss math playfully. Math will emerge when you help your children see the math in their play. Talk about numbers, shapes, symmetry, distances, sorting, and so forth. Do so in a playful way, commenting on what you see in the children’s constructive play.” To read the full article, click here.

Activities You Can Do At Home

You can use loose parts such as the one from Chickadees Wooden Toys or any of the suggestions we have listed below. You can also ask your child to help you sort socks when folding laundry. If they are under 2 years of age, place only 2-3 pairs of socks in front of them and ask them to find 2 socks that are the same or to simply sort by colour. As they improve, keep adding a pair of socks. Anything that you have at home such as coloured bowls, plates, etc can be used to teach children to sort. They can put cutlery away and sort large spoons with the large spoons or small forks with the small forks. You can use playing cards and have them sort by shape or colour (red or black) with younger kids or by number if you have an older child. The possibilities are endless. Have fun sorting!


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