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Working it out - Mathematical thinking
Collections  Like this activity  
15 - 30 mins activity Suitable for Birth - 5 years

Location Indoor, Outdoor, Garden, Park

Children are natural noticers and collectors of bits. It might be a feather found at the park or a pebble from the beach. They may have a special interest in something and collect as many different bits and pieces as they can.

The toy catalogue has arrived in the letterbox. Hunt through it and see if you can find any pictures of cars you can add to your collection.

Talk to your child about what they have collected and the different things they liked about it. It might be the colour or the shape or how it feels on their hand. 

What did you find when we walked to kindy today?

Your pocket is bulging with things you have collected. Tell me about them.

As your child talks to you about what they have found and collected, point out the things you notice that are the same or different.

That feather you found today is the same colour as the one you found at the beach.

I like the pebble that is smooth and slippery in my hand but I don’t like the small sharp stone.

Why does this matter?

When children collect things, they are beginning to recognise and identify the different attributes of an object. The attribute might be size, colour, shape, or what it is used for.

Once they have identified the attributes of an object, they can sort, classify and categorise what goes together and what is different.

“I am going to sort the rocks two different ways. There will be two groups. One for the rocks from the beach and another for the ones from the park. Then I am going to sort those groups into big and little ones.”

What does this lead to?

Some children are naturally curious and creative, taking risks in their learning. Children who are naturally curious and creative often notice and wonder about what they see around them. They will ask questions and create their own answers. These children have a disposition to be creative and curious.

Talking about and exploring the natural and everyday environment with your child will help them to develop the skills to notice, take risks and ask questions.

When children notice differences and objects around them, they are able to sort and group them by attributes. There are many different ways that an object can be sorted or grouped. You might group them by:

  • size - Is it big or small?
  • function - Does it fly or crawl? Does it hold water? Can I drink from it?
  • number - How many legs does it have? Is there more than one? How many are there?
  • colour - Does it have one colour or lots of colours?
  • where it is found - Is it above the ground or below the ground? Is it inside or outside?
  • texture - Is it soft and smooth or hard and spiky?

Sorting objects into smaller groups helps children to make decisions about how to interact with the objects. The grouping of the objects creates information and data. The information helps to tell us what to do and how to act.

Language and Questions to use

  • Same, different, similar
  • Sort, group, classify
  • Divide, separate
  • Attribute, function, classification, species
  • Colour, size, shape
  • Object, form, function
  • Number, quantity, amount, equivalent, equal
  • Bigger, smaller, less, more
  • Shade, light, dark, patterned, plain
  • Can you find another one that is the same colour?
  • Which group has more?
  • How will you sort the objects?
  • Can they be sorted and grouped in more than one way?
  • Can you sort the objects by colour if they are all blue?
  • Can you sort them by weight?

Useful Tips

  1. Younger children sometimes find it easier to sort and group things into containers.
  2. Shades that are similar can be tricky for younger children when they are learning about colour. Try and pick colours that are very different such as red and green.
  3. Let your child guide the way they want to sort and group their objects. Often they will notice tiny details that we might not see.
  4. Very little children love to collect and sort things. It might be their teddies, favourite shirts, or drinking cups.
  5. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Make a data wall at home. Use pictures from the junk mail to record the different types of fruit each family member likes best.
  2. Have a question box. Each day, pull a different question out of the box to help with sorting and grouping the collections and objects.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Label your toy shelves at home so your child can help to organise and put away their toys.
  • Take photos of the different collections your child makes. Turn these into a book that you can read together.
  • Create a collections box. You could include magnifying glasses, containers for collecting and sorting and implements for recording what you have found.
  • Have hoops of different colour to help with sorting.

Questions to ask

  • Can you find one the same colour?
  • Where do the teddies go?
  • Can you find something to drink from?
  • Can you show me a picture of something to eat?

Three to five year olds

  • Label your toy shelves at home so your child can help to organise and put away their toys.
  • Take photos of the different collections your child makes. Turn these into a book that you can read together.
  • Create a collections box. You could include magnifying glasses, containers for collecting and sorting and implements for recording what you have found.
  • Have hoops of different colour to help with sorting.

Questions to ask

  • Where will this go?
  • Is this lighter or darker than the other one?
  • Does the magnifying glass make the object look bigger or smaller?

Collections

Skills this activity improves

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