Sorting and counting are great activities for preschool-age children, but children can lose interest in the activities when the items they are sorting and counting are always the same. Although there are plenty of commercially produced items available to purchase, they can seem repetitive in style and be costly. So, why not make your own? I have seen this accomplished with great success in multiple early learning programs over the years. You can create different sorting/counting activities with just a little bit of creativity and prep work.
Start by thinking about a season or theme that you want to create custom activities for and give it a fun name. Some examples I have seen are puppy treats (pet themed), summer stew (summer), and witch’s brew (Halloween). After you have your theme, start to collect printable or inexpensive items that support the theme. For the summer activity, some examples might include erasers, foam cutouts, sponges and/or printed images of watermelons, bugs, and popsicles. You can even use blue or clear marbles as bubbles.
The next step is to create your “recipe cards.” Find images to represent the items you have selected in your sorting tray. Depending on the ages and skill level of the children in your group, pick 2 to 4 “ingredients” for the recipes and list how many of each item you want to go into the “stew.” I recommend making 5 to 10 different cards with a slightly different recipe to keep the game fun and challenging. To increase number recognition, list the numeral and dots representing how many of each item you want next to the picture of the ingredient. You can help develop literacy skills by adding the written word in addition to the picture for each item. If you have the ability to laminate the cards it will help to make them last longer and you will be able to use them more than once.
Some examples of items for puppy treats are different shaped dog treats, dog food, bones, and tennis ball
Some examples for witch’s brew are spiders, bones, bats, lizards, and newts.