“The work of toddlers is play” is a common description of what’s going on developmentally for your 2-year-old. Little ones this age typically aren’t able to sit and absorb traditional lessons yet, but they are eager to display their mastery of basic concepts such as shape, color and size.
These concepts all lend themselves to simple, fun sorting games for you to play with your 2-year-old. Whether you purchase games at the toy store or make up your own sorting games, plan to play them over and over and over as your child expands her understanding of sorting and matching.
Compare and Contrast
By two years of age, your toddler probably knows a number of basic vocabulary words, especially those that identify the items and people in her immediate environment — doggy, cookie, flower or ball, for example. She is now ready to begin expanding on those concepts by describing or comparing various items within a group.
When you’re outside, point out different flowers and distinguish between big ones and little ones. Let her point out big dogs and little dogs, or big trees and little trees. Help her sort her toys by category: Get sturdy plastic bins and show her how to put books in one, balls in another, animals in a third and vehicles in the fourth.
Traditional Sorting Games
A standard learning toy found in many homes with toddlers is the plastic shape sorter. This hollow ball or square has shapes cut into the sides and comes with smooth plastic blocks in the shapes of the cut-outs. Your 2-year-old learns to sort the blocks by size and shape as he figures out which ones fit into which openings in the ball or square.
Traditional stacking toys also help your child master his sorting skills, as he has to group colored rings by size. Older 2-year-olds may enjoy color matching with fishing games in which they have to hook fish in a pretend pond with a plastic fishing rod, distinguishing which fish are theirs based on color.
Make Your Own Games
If you have a muffin tin or an empty egg carton, you have the basis of numerous do-it-yourself sorting games. Put a colored sticker inside the bottom of the muffin tin or egg carton segments.
Give your child a handful of large colored buttons (too big to swallow) or pieces of paper and ask her to put the green buttons in the green section, red ones in the red area, and so on. When your 2-year-old has mastered this activity, make it a little harder by removing the colored stickers and instructing her to sort the objects by grouping the items of the same color together.
Sort Your Way Through the Day
Sorting items by size or color is a game you can play using basic household items as you go about your daily routine. Give your 2-year-old a handful of colorful plastic spoons of varying sizes. Ask him to show you the big spoons and the little spoons, or have him put them in piles according to color.
He can “help” you with laundry by putting socks in one pile, pants in another and shirts in a third. Give him plastic food storage tubs in varying sizes or colors while you’re busy in the kitchen. Tell him to sort the containers by color or arrange them by size.