Graphing and Sorting with Toddler

When Abe was a 2 year old, and we were at that point of developing vocabulary and the ability to communicate, I read that words stick when they are used in many places with a variety of contexts. This makes sense- if the young child hears the word apple as they eat it, pick it from a tree, see a picture in this book and that book, etc. that child will KNOW the word apple. A parent can say the word apple over and over, the child may say it, but they will not KNOW it. They did not have enough variety in contexts.

This is the same with math. It also needs contexts. Numbers need context to develop number sense and number skills. 2 means nothing. They need to experience 2. 2+2 = 4 means nothing. They need to experience adding in all sorts of meaningful contexts. I know there are so many activities we, parents, can tap into.

I recently took classes to renew my Iowa teaching license which expired November 30, 2018. I have a degree and certificate for teaching 7-12 math, but for my renewal credits, a class called “More Math Please” with @GinaBlomberg caught my eye. This was geared for early math education, laying out developmental facts and appropriate math approaches for children mainly in the age range of 1-4 years. I realized in this course and some of my other renewal courses where I connected with preschool and kindergarten teachers, there are so many tips and tricks that I just was not aware of that I could use with Abe in these important early years. So, I have started this blog to document my journey of exploring and discovering educators and other parents who have working activities and success in introducing concepts, not just in math, to the little minds. I do have a slight bias and passion for math, however.

In the next handful of posts, I will be sharing some of the activities I found and developed from the renewal classes I took.

I will start with the concept of SORTING in this blog. I think this is a natural thing we do with our kids, so that’s great.

Sorting and making sets was a major concept that I would have otherwise overlooked as important. To a degree, I did this with Abe, but I really am putting some focus on it.

Some of the notes I took on sorting:

I have to sort (group) before I count

I have to make sets before adding

Classification in Sorting: Trajectory through age 4,

Age 1- Classify intuitively

Age 2- forms sets that are similar

Age 3- can sort when given one rule – can you bring me the red blocks?

Age 4- can categorize within 1 attribute.  

I made some grids (which also introduces data display and graphing) and Abe and I did some sorting and counting activities. I made my first video of us doing this- let me tell you, my technology skills are a bit rusty as I struggled through video editing. Abe seemed to like what we did though. We should get better and better as we develop this. The grids help organize and again why not introduce and familiarize him with graphs as a way of sorting data. Exposure. Exposure. Exposure. Contexts, contexts, cotexts!! He has a context for graphing. We hit on comparing and some key language for subtracting in this sorting activity.

The fabric grids I figure can be written on and washed with washable marker and were durable for the amount of use I am planning for them. The main axis and dots are permanent. The lines actually are washable markers, so hopefully they wash off. I would like to be able to make the squares bigger and smaller as I wish.

Sort away and make graphing fun because we can.



  1. So for my 2 year old, would you suggest a simple sorting activity? Have him put all the blocks in the red container kind of sorting game?


    1. Hey, Sean! You are so great. Thanks for reading my thoughts and ideas. Totally start with simple sorting activities like what you have suggested with your little guy. From what I learned in my renewal class, at the age of 2, the mind is developed to sort by one attribute. Color is the most natural thing to encourage. Size (if you have little blocks and bigger blocks), type of item (like food type in my video), shapes, and maybe material (soft or hard). You can also do the sorting of things by “this is” and “this isn’t”, so “this is soft and this isn’t” type of thing. I know I had a great Melissa and Doug puzzle. I will try to find a link to it. It was one of those 4 in 1 puzzles with a train, a boat, a plain, and a dump truck. At around 2.5 years, Abe was sorting those out. He loved that puzzle. The things the little minds can do are amazing.


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