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Language and Communication sort objects by clear physical and functional distinctions  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Child develops gross categorisation skills e.g. sorts animals versus plants.

Early years skill:Shape, space and measure
Early years typical range:22-36m
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum skill:Science
P-scales/Nat. Curriculum level:P6
TAP skill:Language
TAP level:TAP36
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info

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Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Sorting Boxes

3 boxes/trays

At least 8 items from 2 different categories (e.g. 8 different types of plants, 8 different types of animals)

Picture symbol to represent each category

(You can make your own simple drawings to represent each category, or you can use a commercial product - click on "links" on to find some suppliers).

1. Put the 16 items (8 from each category) into one of the boxes.

2. Attach each of the symbols corresponding to the chosen categories at the top of each tray so it is clear to see when then child puts items in the tray.

3. Sit the child at the table. Put the two empty trays in front of the child.

4. Point to the symbols and label them. E.g. "Animals" and "plants".

5. Take one item from each category and put it in the correct tray.

6. Name the item as you put it in the correct tray.

7. Encourage the child to take an item from the box and show them which tray it goes into if they don't know.

8. Go through each item with them until the box is empty.

9. The activity is finished for today. Do not get them to do it again that day.

10. Next time, see if the child can do it with less help until they can sort the items independently.

Categories can include:






Start with a category your child is very familiar with (e.g. animals) and one that looks as visually different as possible. Once they can sort two categories successfully, swap one of the categories for a new one.

Change what items you use to represent each category. For example, if you had a miniature dog, cat, cow, elephant, lion, monkey, horse for the animal category, next time have dog, elephant, tiger, cat, rabbit, squirrel, bear, mouse, etc.

Once the child can do it with real objects or miniatures, move on to getting them to categorise pictures of the objects.

Sorting Lotto

Pictures to represent each category on a lotto board. One item to represent each category (e.g. apple, lion, trousers, table, car)

One bag/box.

This can be done independently or as a paired/small group game. Just make sure you have enough lotto boards and objects for each child.

Make sure you regularly change the items that you have selected to represent each category. You can even have some prepared bags which can mix up. For example: Bag 1 - cat, banana, shoe, bike, table

Bag 2 - horse, burger, jumper, aeroplane, chair.

Bag 3 - lion, carrot, hat, car, TV.

Categories book

Two colours of paper, or card and one colour of paper

Photos or pictures of common items from two categories

Rather than having different coloured pages for each category, you could make two books, one for each category.

Sorting action game

Have objects or photos of items from two categories which you are targeting (see above)

Bag or box

Two sorting containers

This activity is good for children with limited attention


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