# Categorizing

## Fairy and Elf Activities #6 for Boys and Girls: Fairy Math Fun and Play

Flat glass marbles, like these in a grown-up friend’s fairy garden, inspired some fairy math fun and play counting, grouping, and making patterns.

In the craft drawer,  we have a few of these smooth, sparkly glass circles left-over from another project. They make wonderful fairy rocks. Big Brother, who is just 4, likes to count. He counted these several times. Each time he counted he got a different number, because he skipped a number here and there.

Accurate counting comes from practice; just remembering all the numbers is quite a challenge, never mind getting them in the right order. He did touch each marble as he said a number, showing that he has figured out each number goes with one item. This one-to-one correspondence is the foundation for counting, that one number is connected to one thing. As we say more numbers, we mean more things.

While he was counting, Big Brother noticed there were different colors. He liked the green ones so he separated them from the light purple ones. Making groups is a powerful thinking skill. As we think, we organize and deal with information. Do you remember the movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?” Grouping or categorizing is like the movie; it shrinks information into smaller packages.

Making patterns is another way to shrink information. If the fairy rocks are in random order, it would be hard to remember the color of each one. If there is a pattern, such as purple rock – green rock, purple rock – green rock, it’s so much easier.

With the fairy rocks, I showed Big Brother a purple-green, purple-green pattern. He wasn’t interested in having a pattern. He just wanted the green ones. Again, patterning is a skill that kids develop from experience and practice. There will be other opportunities to show simple patterns until the brain makes the needed connections.

For most of this fairy math fun, Big Brother directed the play as he wanted.  He liked making a line and different shapes. After a while, he decided to do something different. We carefully put the fairy rocks away so Little Brother didn’t get them. Do you have any items that could be fairy rocks for some math fun and play?

For more fairy play activities, check the plays-of-the-day on the blog.

## Dragon Categorizing Activities with “Dragons Love Tacos”

The books Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el helped us with some dragon categorizing activities and food fun. These stories both really appealed to the kids and sparked some play ideas. (pun intended)

In Dragons Love Tacos, the dragons gobble up tacos but they hate salsa. All kinds of salsa. Hot, spicy foods gives them a tummy ache and they snort sparks from their nose. Unfortunately, at a taco party, the mild salsa has some bits of jalapeno and the dragons accidentally burn down the house. The good news is they help build it back up again.

The dragon in Not Your Typical Dragon has a different problem. He is trying to create fire and so eats as much as he can that’s hot and spicy, like chili, curry, and salsa. His breath comes out not as flames but red party streamers.

These two stories talked about food that’s hot and spicy. I asked Little Sister what foods might be good for dragons to eat so they can breathe fire. She thought of a few things, like salsa of course, and some spicy dishes she doesn’t like. We went to the grocery story that afternoon, so she added in some foods that were red and orange, such as strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples and peppers. She asked me what the red things were that grew in the garden that were kind of hot. I guessed a few things but couldn’t figure out what she meant. She looked around the store to see if she could find them and show them to me. She found some small red potatoes and hollered, “Radishes!” They were close enough to be a visual reminder to give her the brain-link to the word.

Radishes fit the category of hot foods for dragons. Of all the foods she could think of, Little Sister was sorting out the ones to make fiery breath. This involves a lot of thinking and analyzing. The skill of making groups is an important one for kids. It’s one of children’s early brain tools, shrinking huge amounts of information into smaller chunks. When we got home, just for a brain challenge, I set out some items for a sorting activity. One group was red and orange foods, the color of fire. The second group was hot and spicy.

The peppers, apple, orange, carrot and salsa were in the colors group, and the wasabi and green chilis in the hot group. Hmmm…what about radishes and salsa? Would they go in the colors or the hot? They are both.

When making groups, younger kids will put the items into one or the other, but preschoolers a little older might realize the items can belong to more than one group at the same time. The solution? The groups can share. Do you remember doing Venn diagrams at school? Young kids can do it too. They understand sharing.

Little Sister first put the radish in the red group, but after a few bites she could get putting the radish into both at the same time.

Grouping and categorizing skills are really more of a system for organizing information. Like other skills, they get better with practice. Kids need lots of experiences with categorizing activities. The stories and the grocery store were a golden opportunity for this brain play, or should that be a red hot opportunity?

## Transportation Activities #2: Toy Cars Help Categorizing Skills

Did you know cars and trucks can help kids develop categorizing skills? This is an important brain strategy for coping with lots of information.

Have you ever felt brain overload, especially at the end of the day or when trying to learn something new? Just think of all that’s new for a child to learn. No wonder kids get cranky. To deal with vast amounts of information the brain sorts it and categorizes it. Categorizing shrinks information into more brain-friendly chunks.

Making groups is one of the early strategies kids develop. We’ve seen kids sort their toys into things they think go together, or families. You can also facilitate it by asking questions or making comments. For instance, when your child is playing with cars and trucks you may notice, “I see 2 cars that are red. Are there any other red cars? All these cars are kind of the same because they are red.” Your child may help you find other red vehicles or make a group of another color.

Some groups or categories may seem mixed up to us, but kids have their own ideas. A bunch of cars may be mixed up with trains because they are all the bumpy ones. It’s not always obvious but kids are usually happy to explain. When they are making groups, we can ask if another toy belongs to that family. As kids play, we can occasionally interact and extend their play.

The following quote is from the website Autism Journeys that when teaching kids to categorize, “you are not just teaching a single skill but a system for learning, problem solving and organizing.  You are also teaching the foundation for processing, remembering and integrating new information.”

Cars and trucks and other transportation toys are more than toys. They are vehicles for helping kids play and learn categorizing skills.

## Off to School Toolbox: Categorizing Skills

Thinking involves organizing and dealing with information. One of children’s early brain tools to do that is categorizing skills. Like the movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” categorizing shrinks information into much smaller packages. It’s easier for brains to cope with these chunks than vast quantities of little bits. You may have noticed a very … Continue reading Off to School Toolbox: Categorizing Skills

## Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Making Rock Groups

Sorting and categorizing items is an important kindergarten readiness learning skill. Making groups helps the brain deal with large volumes of information. It’s much easier to look at a strawberry, cherry, apple, clown nose, rose, part of a flag, and tongue and remember them altogether as things that are red rather than a long list … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Making Rock Groups

## Kindergarten Readiness – Learning/Thinking Strategies #18

Ready to cook up some kindergarten readiness? Whether he knew it or not, this young boy was showing another critical learning and thinking strategy. It’s hard to see in the photo but as he was cooking in the play kitchen he was also sorting the small toys. The cars and trucks are in the little sauce pan … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Learning/Thinking Strategies #18

## Readiness for Kindergarten – Learning Goes in Backpacks

Just in case we didn’t know it’s back to school, the number of newspaper flyers and other ads would certainly clue us in. A favorite item to purchase this time of year is a new backpack. Even if little ones are not yet starting school, a backpack is handy for preschool or daycare, taking a … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Learning Goes in Backpacks