Playtime Tips: Sorting Toys

Playtime Tips: Sorting Toys

Sorting toys encourage children to categorize pieces based on an attribute like shape, color, or size. We love sorting toys because they foster a feeling of accomplishment and help children learn how to classify objects and manipulate them to fit into corresponding slots. 


  • Fine motor skills
  • Shape recognition/matching
  • Color recognition/matching
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Problem-solving
  • Concentration/focus

Play Prompts: 

Try these tips to add challenge, simplify, or switch up how you play with sorting toys. Bring in the whole family by simplifying for younger siblings or stepping it up with older siblings!


  • Observation Station: Observe first. Watch how your child plays with the toy (there is no one right way!). This will show you their understanding and allow you to follow their lead based on interest and ability. 
  • Break it Down: There are two steps with sorting toys: (1) Where does it go? (2) How do I place it? Separate these into single tasks. Model placing a piece near the correct slot to show it’s correct spot, or hand your child the correct piece to place. 
  • Limited Choice: Cover up (or fill in) the choices so a piece has only one place to go. 
  • I Do, You Do: Slowly model the action and narrate your thought process aloud. (Try using your non-dominant hand or only certain fingers to empathize and better understand their struggle!)
  • Block Play: Play with the pieces first without the base. Build a tower and knock it down!
  • Hide and Go Seek: Help your child understand that the pieces go with the base. Spread the pieces around the room and have your child find, collect, and return them to the base (a great way to practice clean up!). Sneak a few items under pillows or books for a surprise reveal. 
  • Same, Same, Different: If there are multiple pieces of the same attribute, separate out so all the pieces are the same except for one, and have your child find the different one. (e.g., if sorting multiple shapes, have all of the circles out and find the single triangle). 

Step up:

  • Beat the Clock: Make it a countdown and see if they can sort all of the pieces in 30, 20, or 10 seconds! Play part of a song and try to complete it before the song is paused. Take out a timer and give the whole family a turn! Who can set the record?
  • Name Game: Practice counting each piece once sorted. Have your child name/describe the piece (e.g. one blue square).
  • Mistake Maker: Sort the pieces incorrectly and have your child stop you and explain why it’s wrong. Make it silly! 
  • Sensory Shutdown: Have your child complete the sorting toy with their eyes closed, with a non-dominant hand, or instead of using their hands, they must describe where the piece should go to a partner. 
  • Rocky Terrain: Place the sorting toy on a rocky surface like a pillow or shoe ( low to the ground and safe!). Can your child complete it while not toppling the base over?!


  • Make Your Own: Using paper and/or a box - with caregiver guidance, try cutting out shapes and finding where they belong. Your child could rip pieces instead of cutting. 
  • Sorting Safari: Find similar shapes, colors, and sized objects around and outside of your house! Compare their similarities and differences. 
  • Sorting Toys Are Everywhere!: Show your child how sorting toys are everywhere. Dishes, clothes, art supplies, books, and so much more! 


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