Sort It Out

Observe, describe, and organize!

  • Target Age:  3-5 
  • Subject: science, math
  • Related Episode: Curious George, Dog Counter


a collection like one of these examples:

  • blocks of various kinds
  • game pieces
  • toy animals
  • crayons
  • stuffed animals and dolls
  • shells
  • craft paper of various kinds


Sorting and arranging items helps your child learn to observe, organize, and make connections — and it can be a lot of fun! Use these simple activities to help your child look at things, describe them, and sort them into groups according to common characteristics ("properties").

1. Look and Talk: Help your child gather a collection like one of those suggested above. Look at the objects together, and ask questions to help your child describe each thing: Tell me as much as you can about this object. What is it? What color is it? What shape is it? Is it bumpy or smooth? Is it light or heavy? What is it used for? What is it made of? What are its parts?

2. Sort: Help your child sort the collection. For example, if you have a large collection of crayons, you might do a simple sort by color:Do we have any reds? Let's put those over here. This one is green, so let's start a green pile over here. (You could then sort each color pile again by shade: light reds and dark reds, light greens and dark greens.)

3. Sort Again...and Again: Try other sorting rules based on the characteristics of the items. For crayons, you might sort by tip (sharp or worn), paper covering (intact, ripped, or missing), crayon condition (whole or broken), or size. Open it up for your child to suggest new rules. Ask: If we were to sort by all these rules at once, would any of these things belong in more than one group?

4. Play "Guess My Rule": Organize some of the objects into groups. Let your child guess the rule you used and help you finish the sorting. Then switch, having your child sort the objects using a rule that you have to guess.

Take it Further

Invite your child to help you in some household tasks that involve sorting. For example, organize clean laundry or recycling items, put away dishes and eating utensils, or tidy up art supplies and toys. As you sort, continue to talk through the process with your child.

More Ways to Discover and Learn

Look in a Book

  • How Many Snails? by Paul Giganti, Jr.
  • Hannah's Collections by Marthe Jocelyn


Find more activities featuring your child’s favorite PBS KIDS character!