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Sorting Colors: Why Sorting Is Important For Young Children

Play Schemas

Did you know that when your child creates art or plays with blocks and other manipulative materials that there's often these things called schemas that are happening at different stages and ages?

Play schemas are repeated patterns of behaviour that a child uses or engaes in to explore and understand the world around them.

Sorting: A Schema To Encourage

An example of a play schema is sorting. Young children often love to sort things into different groups that have similarities. While this seems simple to an adult, it's actually a really big developmental process that's happening for a young child.

Sorting objects:

  • develops visual perception and problem solving skills

  • builds memory skills

  • grows language skills - naming and identifying objects, and older children can begin noticing differences within a "similar group", such as light pink and dark pink withon the braoder pink group. This skill uses and builds descriptive language.

  • is a building block to "numeracy", or an understanding of numbers and math concepts such as comparison, grouping, and ordering

A young child stands in an art classroom where colorful paper has been sorted into categories on the floor around her. She was sorting the colors.
A young artist observes the array of sorted colors

Sorting In The Art Classroom

When I was a young art teacher, I loved thinking about play schemas and using them to craft lessons that naturally engaged the kids' developmental interests. Taking the idea of sorting, I got a giant stack of multicolored paper that had different shades of each color. Then, I placed colorful painters tape on the floor in rectangles that represented each braoder color category. One of the rectangles had ALL the sheets to begin with.

Then, we spent much of our class time that day sorting the colors into the rectangles and talking about the differences within the squares. We also talked about how to sort a color that could possibly go in two different rectangles- tricky!


Encouraging Sorting At Home

Want to create a vibrant sorting schema play-time for your kids at home? You don't have to search for and order a stack of colorful paper (though you defeinitely can). INSTEAD:

  • If you have a big box of random tossed-up crayons in your house, pull that out into the center of your desired work area.

  • Around that box of tossed up crayons, place containers that are somehow labeled with broad color groups such as "Yellow", "Blue", "Green" etc. The label can be something you write on the container directly, on tape stuck to the container, or on a piece of paper at each container. OR, simply drop a starter color into each container and let your kids do the rest- zero writing set up required!

  • Let you kids have fun sorting the big box into all the smaller boxes.

Here's a fun, creative, EASY idea for extending the play of this project:

  • Can you create a drawing using just ONE of the color categories?

Want to continue expxloring ways to encourage creativity in the classroom and at home with your kids- with minimal materials and set up? Check out THE FAIRY TALE ART CART PODCAST! It's a draw-along storytelling podcast that weaves together folktales, music, and drawing so that listeners become the imaginative illustrators of the stories.


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