Introducing sorting to a 16 month old.
My toddler son and I love sorting activities. It’s one of our favorite go to “games”. We sort by color, by letters, by magnetic properties – you name it and I bet we’ve sorted it. Sorting is an amazing go-to activity that you can do any where: the doctor’s office, a restaurant, at home when you’re bored and desperate to make it to nap time…
But I also have a 16 month old who is just dying to get in on this game playing action. I wanted to see if I could teach her how to sort. Spoiler alert: she nailed it. I’d love to share with you how our first sorting “lessons” went down.
Think simple when introducing sorting for the first time.
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- colored bowls
- colored blocks (I used foam blocks…note the teeth marks….)
For our first ever sorting lesson, I wanted to keep things really, really simple. I chose two colors (blue and yellow) that have very little in common with each other and look nothing alike. Think how confusing red and pink must look to a young one! I only selected 5 blocks of each color – remember, we are keeping it simple. Two colors, five blocks….here we go!
I set my 16 month old up with the blocks and the bowls. Even though she can’t quite understand all my words and phrases, I still “introduced” the activity. “Today, we are going to sort colors! We are going to put yellow in this bowl and blue in this bowl.” Did she look at me like I was nuts? Of course. But she does that anyways. I then modeled the entire activity for her.
As I modeled the activity, I sat her in my lap and showed her exactly what I was doing. I also did the narration of every move I made. “Oh this is a blue block. He goes in the blue bowl.” Once I finished, I dumped them out and it was her turn.
I’ll admit: I was STUNNED when she immediately picked up two yellow blocks and set them right in the yellow bowl. Are you kidding me?! She’s only 16 months old! Her first birthday decorations are practically still up. She was purposeful, deliberate, she “knew” what she was doing (more or less).
She was also incredibly accurate. My take away message here isn’t that my daughter is gifted, but rather – look at what our kids can accomplish when we give them a chance. I certainly didn’t have my son sorting at 16 months old but I’m loving that I’ve already started this with her.
Since she is only 16 months old, her attention span isn’t the longest so I kept restating the same phrases. “This one is yellow. Put him in the yellow bowl.” And other similar phrases. The hardest part for her was NOT chewing on the blocks. Apparently, they must taste delicious because every one of them had a nibble/lick before being sorted.
Over two days, we worked on introducing sorting three times. Each time I made sure to keep distractions (aka big brother) to a minimum. We’ve stuck with blue and yellow but I’m planning to branch out and try red and blue blocks next. Sorting is such a valuable skill for toddlers to have – it’s amazing to see her little mind grasping this concept so early.
Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t go off with a bang. Try again the next day. Sometimes, toddlers (even super young toddlers) need a day between seeing a new skill in action and putting it to use – of course, that’s just my humble opinion.
Looking for more activities to do with young toddlers and babies? Check out my 20+ baby activities post!