Early childhood classification games not only increase children’s logical thinking skills but also reinforce math vocabulary. Children gain experience sorting and classifying as they explore rocks, leaves, buttons or other household items.
Educational supply companies also produce learning materials for children to sort, including sorting trays, and classification cards. As children become familiar with the concept of sorting and classifying objects, play the following games to increase math vocabulary. Keep the games simple and do not add too many terms in each classification activity.
Game – Pick a Card Sort
- Sorting mat for each child (card or plastic mat with a line down the middle will do)
- Pattern blocks for each child
- Six cards, with the numbers 1 through 6 printed on them
- Ask children to choose a few handfuls of pattern blocks.
- Show them the edges of the orange square block.
- “This is the side of the block. We called it an edge.
- How many edges are there? Count them together.
- Repeat this process with all the pattern blocks.
- Shuffle the cards and randomly choose one. If it is the 4 card say,
- “Put all your blocks with 4 edges or sides on one side of your mat.”
- “Put the blocks that don’t have 4 edges on the other side.”
- The orange square, red trapezoid, and the blue and beige rhombus shapes will fit into this category.
- Shuffle cards and choose again, changing the card and thus, the number of sides. If you pick the number 3, say
- “Put all the blocks with 3 edges on one side. Put all the blocks that do not have 3 edges on the other. “
- Children will start by looking for a block with 1, 2 or 5 sides when those cards are chosen but soon learn that none of the pattern blocks have 1, 2 or 5 sides.
Game – Time to Change
This kindergarten classification game gives everyone a chance to discuss their sorting rule.
- Items to sort
- Sorting mats
- Children’s names, printed on cards that are turned over in the center of the carpet
- As always, demonstrate the game first.
- Give students rocks (or something else) to sort.
- Ask them to sort/classify their rocks any way they want
- After a few minutes of sorting, turn over three name cards on the carpet and ask those children to tell you their sorting rule.
- Then say, “Time to change!”
- All children sort their rocks in a different way than their first sort.
- Many will copy others and this is fine.
- Pick 3 more names and ask them to share their sorting rule
- Repeat the process until all the children have had a chance to tell how they sorted their rocks.
Helping Young Children Sort
When teaching sorting or classification skills in kindergarten, some children will put a variety of round buttons on one side and yellow, round buttons on the other and tell you these ones are round and these ones are yellow.
Have them finish your sentences as they sort. “These buttons are ____. These buttons are not ______.” Do this a number of times and they soon get the idea of sorting by one criteria at a time.
Integrate math games with science
When children collect leaves, rocks, shells or other objects, use them to reinforce classification skills and vocabulary. “Susan has sorted the rocks into 2 sets which she calls, dull and shiny. How many other ways can we classify our rock collection?”