Color Sorting Activities | Number Recognition - FamilyEducation

Muffin Tin Toy Sort Activity

Work on color sorting and number recognition with this early learning number activity. Practice sorting, categorizing, and identifying sets of items.

Muffin tins are a household item that can easily be transformed into a mathematical tool. With just a few muffin tins and a bunch of different types of toys or craft materials, your child can practice sorting, categorizing, and identifying sets of items.

Skills Being Practiced

  • Categorization skills
  • Identifying numbers and sets

What You Need

  • Muffin tins
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Variety of small toys and/or craft materials (i.e., colored craft pompoms, Fruit Loops cereal, beads, LEGO bricks, alphabet magnets, play food, toy animals, a variety of types of pasta, packets of seeds)

How to Play

1. Color sorting: Choose six different colors of construction paper, and cut circles to place in the bottom of the cups in the muffin tin. Give your child a pile of colorful items, such as beads, colored cereal, or craft pompoms, and the muffin tin. Have him sort the items into the muffin cup that matches the item's color.
2. Number sorting: Remove the paper circles from the bottom of the muffin cups. Write a numeral on each piece of paper and return them to the muffin tin. Let your child choose from the gathered materials and ask him to put the correct number of items in each muffin cup.
3. Food sorting: For this activity, you will need to have more than one set of muffin tins. Put two or three pans on a table and label each one with a different type of food. For example, you may have "Vegetable," "Fruit," and "Meat" tins, or you may have "Breakfast," "Lunch," and "Dinner" tins. Help your child identify each tin's label and verbally identify a few items that could be placed in each muffin tin. Then give him his play food and ask him to sort it into the correct tins.
4. Animal sorting: There are a few different ways you can approach this type of sorting. If your child's toy animals are small enough, you can use one muffin tin and have him sort into the cups, but if they are larger, you may need multiple muffin pans. Whichever you choose, you can ask your child to sort the animals in a number of different ways, including: farm animals, jungle animals, and zoo animals; bipedal animals, quadruped animals, and animals that fly; or mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. If these are too complicated for your child, write animal sounds on circles that you place in the bottom of the muffin cups and ask him to match the animal to its sound.
5. Categorization sorting: For this type of muffin-tin sorting, all your child needs is a bag full of different items. Whether it be numerous types of dried pasta, different types of seeds, or something even simpler like different types of toys mixed together, all your child needs to do is separate the items into the cups based on what they are.

Extend the Learning

Animal sorting also opens up the opportunity to combine math and literacy skills. Give your child a set of alphabet magnets, and ask her to find the letter that comes first in each animal's name. You can also make an animal sound and ask your child to spell it with magnetic letters.

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