This activity is an expanded version of the one seen on the video above.
Exploring and learning about math often requires us to compare and sort objects by their attributes to look for similarities and differences. In this activity, you will help your child learn to sort by comparing and sorting beads by their color, shape, size and other attributes before using them to make playful wands and bracelets.
- 1 large open container for sorting
- 30 assorted crafting beads (different shapes, sizes and colors)
- 2 pipe cleaners or 2 10-inch pieces of string
- Feathers or other lightweight decorations (optional)
1. Get ready for the activity by placing a large variety of beads in a large open container, such as a plastic tray. Let your child play using their hands to explore the different beads in the tray before you sort.
2. Choose one bead from the collection. Ask your child to find another bead that is exactly alike in color, shape, size and transparency (or whether light can shine through). Ask your child: “Which bead is exactly like this one?” Repeat this step a few times.
3. Choose a different bead from the collection and place it next to the first one. Ask your child, “How are the beads different? Is there anything about them that is also the same?” For example, beads may have the same color but different shapes. Repeat this step with two new beads.
4. Beads can be sorted into sets based on their attributes. Ask your child to pick an attribute, like color, to sort the beads.
5. Time to sort! Move the beads into sets that share the same attribute that your child picked.
6. Look at the sets of sorted beads together. Ask your child to name the sets made with that sort. For example, if you chose to sort by color, the sets may be named blue, yellow, red and green.
7. To make a bead bracelet, place beads from one of the sets onto a piece of string or pipe cleaner. Tie or tape the string around your child’s wrist. If using a pipe cleaner, wrap the pipe cleaner loosely around your child’s wrist, so it can slide on and off, and cover the pointy ends of the pipe cleaner with tape.
8. To make a bead wand, place the beads from one of the sorted sets onto a pipe cleaner to form the handle of the wand. Use your creativity to decide what magical shapes and decorations your wand should feature. For example, you can use another pipe cleaner to make a shape like a star that you can attach to the top of the wand. Optionally, use tape to attach a feather or other lightweight decorations to the wand.
Take It Further
- Sort by two attributes: For an added challenge, sort the collection of beads using two attributes. For example, after sorting by color, ask your child to make sets sorted by both color and size (large red beads or small blue beads). Other attributes can be shape or type of bead.
- Counting: How many of each kind are there? Count the number of beads in each group (or set). Whenever possible, have your child count out loud and repeat the last number to show how many there are. For example, “one, two, three. There are three blue beads.”
- Patterns: Make a pattern with your beads. Select beads from different groups in a predictable sequence to place on your string or pipe cleaner. For example, large, small, large, small … blue, blue, green, blue, blue, green. ... Repeat the pattern until your bracelet or wand is full or until you run out of beads.
“Sam Sorts” by Marthe Jocelyn
In this fun book, Sam tidies up his room and learns that there are many ways to sort his 100 things.
This activity is part of our Sorting and Collecting workshop, which helps parents and caregivers playfully build children's ability to sort.