Sorting is an important skill that preschoolers need to work on. This exploration station was set up to encourage parent/child interaction and to work on sorting skills. I printed out a number of different objects, carefully ensuring that I had a certain number of each color and each category, and that each picture fit at least two categories. For instance, the butterfly that can be seen at the bottom of the picture is blue, alive, and an animal.
I taped all of the pictures to the table, which made its effectiveness as a pure sorting game slightly compromised, but meant that all of the pictures would stay on the table and not wander around the room to be lost forever. Searching through a grid of image to determine which pictures meet the current criteria is still a skill that must be developed, even if the children could not then make a pile out of the pictures.
This exploration station met with mixed success. On the one hand, when a parent was willing to sit down with a child and read out the different criteria, the children appeared to be engaged for a surprisingly long amount of time. (I know my own two and a half year old would have loved this activity.) There were some great parent/child interactions that I observed. On the other hand, however, this station, unlike all of the previous ones, was fairly inaccessible without help from a partner who knew how to read. That lack of independent exploration hurt the overall performance of this station, and I don’t think I will repeat it in the future. I am still struggling to come up with an activity that would allow children to sort in an independent fashion while also accounting for the fact that they cannot be choking hazards and will be left outside of direct adult supervision for long periods of time, which the last several months has taught me means that unless it is physically attached to the table in some manner it will be used in some sort of imaginative manner on the side of the room, never to be found again.