Preschool Math Learning - Part 3 - Classification & Sorting

17 January 2020

Preschool Math Learning - Part 3 - Classification & Sorting - Simple Ideas for Every Age

Classification and sorting will be one of the very first math skills your child will learn and use in kindergarten. These two concepts involve putting together things that are alike or that belong together. The first step, classification, is understanding words and concepts such as “alike,” “put together,” and “belong together.” Then, to sort, your preschooler must be able to see and put together things for their likenesses and differences. 

For example, to classify blocks by color, your preschooler must be able to first see and recognize one color from another. Let’s say your preschooler has red and blue blocks. To sort them by color, they must be able to put together all the red blocks and blue blocks separately. 

Today I’m going to share the preschool ages and basic stages key to learning this math skill. Then, I’ve got easy, everyday ways you can give your preschooler a head start learning them!. 

Sorting and Classifying - Preschool Ages, Stages & Activities

There are basic developmental stages in learning how to sort and classify. Remember, just as any developmental skill, ages may vary greatly among individual children. Your child may be a bit ahead or behind, and that’s perfectly normal. 

That said, the average ages and stages in learning to sort and classify are:

  • 2-year olds and younger - Random Sorting - Sorting is usually random for  preschoolers that are 2 years and younger. For example, young 2’s may put all of their blocks together then add a few matchbox cars, then some Legos. When the grouping is complete, and you ask your 2-year-old why these things belong together, they won’t know why, only that they do! Still, even at this early age, you can start growing this skill in simple ways. For example, ask your little one to pick out her favorite crayon from a bunch of crayons, or her favorite shirt to wear. Another simple way is to ask your preschooler to pick out a round cracker from an assortment of different shaped ones. 
  • 3-year-olds - Sorting by one characteristic - At 3 years old, your preschooler is usually able to sort a group of objects by one characteristic. For example, your little one is able to sort Lego blocks one color from another. The good news is, clean up time is a perfect time to encourage this skill of sorting by a single characteristic! For example, ask your preschooler to pick up all their trucks first. Then ask your little one to pick up all the books next. And when you’re setting the table, ask your little one to pick out the small spoons first, and then the forks.  
  • 4-year-olds - Sorting by two or more characteristics -  At 4 years old, your preschooler will be able to put objects together in a group that share two or more characteristics. An example of this is putting all the round and green bottle caps together.  A convenient time to practice this is when you are doing laundry. Ask your little one to help fold towels by size and color, such as folding the small, white towels. Then fold all the small, blue ones. Another fun way to help clean up is to ask your child to arrange their stuffed animals by type and color. Try putting toys with four legs that are brown together. Then all how about those with two legs and dresses? 
  • 4-year-olds and older - Sorting by function or use - Fours and older are typically able to sort objects by their use. An example of this would be sorting all objects that are used in the kitchen. And now their sorting can be also in a negative sense as well. For example, ask your child to gather all objects not used in the kitchen. Another way to practice this is sorting through toys before going outside to play. Your preschooler can go through a toy pile and take out all the toys that are for outdoors only. Then, go outside and have some fun!


As you can see, the essential math skill of sorting and classifying is a useful part of everyday life! So, I hope these ideas make it easy to take time to have fun sorting and classifying with your little one. 

Check out our article, Children’s Play is Major Work for more ideas on how to use everyday activities to boost your little one’s early skills. Then put sorting and classifying into action with our Crinkly Crumpled Paper Designs or Paper Bag Trees! 

Did these ideas help add math learning into your busy day? Feel free to tell us what you think right here. And stay tuned for Part 4 of our Preschool Math Learning series - Comparing and Ordering!