Tag Archives: sorting

Rainbow Sorting

It was just over two weeks ago that I changed the blocks in the playroom.  I put the heavy wooden blocks back into storage and brought out the Duplo blocks.  I also put away the big trucks that were in the block area and brought out the coloured baskets.

We’ve used these baskets for sorting colours before and because the Duplo blocks are so brightly coloured I thought the children may be interested in sorting the blocks into the baskets.  I place the baskets under the block bin and as I was putting the new blocks in the block bin I sorted them by color above the corresponding basket.

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Originally I did it ‘just for fun’.  Organizing stuff  is ‘my thing’, the little ones are usually more interested in ‘reorganizing’ but I was curious to see how long it would remain like this.  It wasn’t until I finished getting everything put away that I realized that if I had put the purple bin and miscellaneous blocks on the left side it would have been the correct rainbow colour order.  I just left it that way instead.

The next day when the first children arrived I did ask them to but the blocks away in the ‘correct’ order when they were finished playing with them.  These two school-age children are here earlier than the little ones and sometimes they have already left for school before all the preschoolers arrive.  I wanted the little ones to have the opportunity to see this particular setup.

Interestingly, two weeks later the blocks still look like this.  The younger children don’t tend to take out many blocks at one time and at clean-up time they have been able to put the majority of their blocks in the appropriate section.  The older children and I have been moving the occasional mismatched blocks and repairing the blurred lines between the sections.

The older children actually seem to like having the blocks organized.  They are the ones who are most particular about colour when they are choosing blocks for their creations.  Having the blocks organized by colour means they don’t need to spend so much time searching for the blocks they want.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to get some ‘rainbow’ and colour themed books from the library;

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These are our two favourites.  There are few words and plenty of pictures to keep the little ones interested.  I like the nature themes too;

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Can’t wait until there is more colour outside – we’re getting tired of just white and grey and looking forward to rainbows and colour outside as well as inside.

Maybe I Should Quit…

When it comes to cleaning up the toys in the playroom I encourage the children to put away their toys before they move to another activity instead of waiting until the mess gets out of control.  My only real ‘rule’ is that as you walk across the room you pick up any loose toys in your path regardless of who used them.  This is more a ‘safety’ rule to prevent tripping.

With a mixed age group there are a wide variety of responses to cleaning up.  The infants and toddlers tend to make the biggest mess.  Often their favourite activities involve clearing all the toys off the shelves and dumping the toys out of the bins.  The dozens of loose toys are then left on the floor and the toddlers move off to explore elsewhere.

Asking or telling these little ones to clean up is futile.  However, that doesn’t mean that I consider this ‘trashing the playroom’ behaviour to be acceptable.  Instead, I simply follow along and pick up the stray toys – I set an example that the little ones will copy at least briefly.  It is the first step in learning to clean up but the little ones think is a game.

With several infants and toddlers enrolled sometimes it feels like my entire day is spent picking up toys off the floor.  It is also a teaching/learning opportunity since as I pick up toys I also talk – labeling objects and attributes – and sort/arrange/organize the items.  When I clean up it often looks like this;

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I don’t expect anyone else to put the toys away like this, it is just something I do for ‘fun’ when I have enough time.  Many of the preschoolers also enjoy sorting and organizing so much that ‘cleaning up’ is one of their favorite activities.  The 3-5 year olds are the very best cleaners – and ‘teachers’ because the toddlers love to copy them.

My current group of 1-2 year olds now often pick up loose toys without much assistance – we’ve had a lot of practice with so much indoor time this winter.  They are even starting to put away toys when they are done with them instead of just dropping them on the floor.  However, there is one exception – this box full of miscellaneous soap containers;

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These little bottles are somewhat difficult to balance on the shelf under the sink. They tip over so easily that standing them up on the shelf is very frustrating so we put them in the box first and then put the box on the shelf.  Problem solved – except that for some reason the babies insist that the box must be emptied every time they come in the room.  Consequently the area in front of the sink always looks like this;

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They never play with these bottles but every time I put them back in the box on the shelf it immediately gets dumped on the floor again.  Guess who is getting frustrated now.  Sometimes, usually closer to the end of the day, I just take the whole box out of the playroom so I don’t have to pick it up any more.  Then one day, when I was in a hurry to clean up before lunch, I just tossed the bottles in the box instead of lining them up;

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When the children returned to the playroom no one dumped the containers on the floor.  In fact, the box was not moved off that shelf for two whole weeks!!!

WHY??

Did all four of the toddlers suddenly lose interest in dumping those containers on the floor?  Did they get tired of playing that game?  Did they just not like that I organized the containers in the box?  How is tossing the containers in the box any better, or less enticing, than lining them up?

Are there are other things I should just quit doing?

Added Features

Last week I wrote about how I renovated the playroom to improve the walkway issues.   As always, no renovation is ever truely complete so now I want to tell you about some newly added  features.

First, I was a little concerned about the corners of the items attached to the loft post;

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This photo angle may show it better;

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It didn’t cause any problems the first week after the renovation but I was concerned that it may at some point in the future.  To address the possible problem I added some pieces of pipe;

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One is there to soften the pointed corners but both of them are used for play.  The words ‘vertical’ and ‘diagonal’ have been used often in our daily conversations this week.  The toddlers have been experimenting with what toys slide best through the tubes;

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I used some pieces of the leftover pipe to create some more tool storage in the workshop area too;

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A mesh curtain was also added at the entrance to the block area;

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Which I have been informed now makes it a pirate ship 🙂

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That’s just a few of the added features – there will be more.

It’s What They Like to Do

It took almost all summer for the school-age children to stop asking me where ‘missing’ toys were.  They claimed they had looked where the desired toy belonged and it was not there.  They had checked and no one else was using it – it was missing.

I asked if they had checked the washing machine.  They would then go look in the washing machine and be surprised to find many ‘missing’ items.

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“How did you know it would be there?” they asked

Missing toys were always there.  I explained that every day when the toddlers came in the playroom they would take toys from the shelves, put them in the washer, and then go play elsewhere.  Often, these toys were then missed at clean-up time because they were hidden from view.

Granted, it may have taken the older children so long to learn this because we were outside most of the summer.  I have spent more time indoors with the toddlers during the school year.  It is not just the currently enrolled toddlers that do this – the ones before them did too.  It’s what they like to do.

I know toddlers enjoy filling containers and dumping them out.  I know they like collecting toys and hauling them around.  Because of this I have many baskets and bags specifically for this purpose.  These are just a few of them;

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Why the toddlers liked putting things in the washing machine was somewhat confusing though.  They couldn’t dump it out and they couldn’t carry it around.  They were not using the washer as a toy bin because they didn’t do it at clean-up time only when they first came in the room.  Maybe they were hiding toys.

I saw this interesting room divider on Pinterest.  It gave me the inspiration for something similar for the playroom.  I used heavy cardboard tubes that I painted first before attaching them together.  I had small tubes too but I chose not to use them because they would be too small for any toys to fit inside and I hoped things would get put in the tubes.

I have the ‘divider wall’ in the block area under the loft so of course the first things that got put in the tubes were blocks;

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I did purposely leave some larger spaces for the bigger toys but so far the children just like using the smaller tubes;

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It has only been a week since these tubes were added to the playroom so we’re still experimenting.  It’s another option for the little ones to sort and store toys.  It’s what they like to do.

Sorting Colours

The children and I have enjoyed painting the snow, decorating the yard with coloured ice and hunting for colours in the playroom.  More recently we tried a new colour game.

I started with the colour wheel again – this time using a circular container with six outer sections and one center section.  I filled the center section with pom poms and gave the children tongs – a fine motor challenge.

Some of the children eagerly started using the tongs to sort the pom poms into the appropriate sections;

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The younger ones spent a long time examining the tongs trying to understand this new tool.  At first they used them to simply ‘stir’ the pom poms.

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When they wanted to join in the sorting they abandoned the tongs and used just their hands instead.

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Some of the group felt this activity was over once all the pom poms were sorted.  They quickly moved off to another area of the playroom to do something else.  Two of them spent much longer here – sorting pom poms over and over again.

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With tongs or without, one time or more,  I introduced the activity but the rest was up to them.

Colour Hunt

I’m not totally against the use of bright primary colours for children’s toys but they can become overwhelming.  Whenever possible I will choose to buy products with more neutral colours – earth tones are my favourite.  Still, many of the toys here were purchased long ago like this old standby;

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Toys like these are useful for activities involving patterns, shapes, sizes and of course colour.  But there is one missing.  Here too, one colour is neglected;

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In a colour wheel there are three primary colours – red, blue and yellow.  There are also three secondary colours – green, orange, and purple.  Why is there no purple in either of these sets of toys?  I find this annoying.

In our set of puzzle people purple was included – but this time the manufacturers neglected to include orange.

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Luckily I found some baskets that had primary colours;

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And all three secondary colours too;

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Perfect. Now we can hunt for colours.  Everyone pick a basket, search the playroom, and find items that match your basket.

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Some baskets were too full to carry;

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This was just one of the colour activities we enjoyed this week.

Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Apples

It is quiet — I watch them play.  Indeed ‘quiet’ probably isn’t the best word to use since there is a lot of noise and movement in the play room.  The children are deeply engaged in activities of interest to them so by ‘quiet’ what I mean is they need very little from me.

Sometimes I feel like maybe I should be teaching something instead of just observing.  I have a list of planned activities that I could be doing with them.  I have boxes of stuff that I could bring out for them but they don’t need it.  They are busy, I check my email to distract myself and avoid interfering in their play.

Then I hear the question – actually first there was a correction as one child informed the other that he had made a mistake.

‘Those two don’t belong together’ he said.

‘They are red’ the other child replies as he takes the pieces apart and looks at them.

Together they spread out all the pieces and compare all the pieces.  ‘The bumps look different’ one says as they group the similar pieces together.

They combine the pairs to form all three toy fruits correctly.  Then the first child takes them apart again — one at a time to examine them more closely – like he’s not sure what the difference is.

I understand the problem – after all, these are just toys. Real fruit has more impact – it engages all the senses.  I disrupt their play and tell them to clean up for snack.  They wash up and arrive at the table to see this;

Which they quickly rearranged like this;

They were very excited.  They were also quick to point out that they don’t like tomatoes – except the green part on the top feels nice.

We examined the inside too – comparing real to imitation.  ‘The apple should be white inside’

I gave them each a bowl with some of each of the fruits and a plastic knife.  They both asked me to not give them any tomato but were reassured when I told them they didn’t have to eat it.  They practiced cutting bite size pieces.

And they both told me that red peppers are their favourite so I learned something new too.