Sorting helps science and math skills

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling and Katers

Walks with young children are especially fun in fall when the leaves turn brilliant colors and many flowers have interesting seed heads. They can observe birds flying south in giant V’s and other animals frantically burying food for the winter. It’s a great time for children to collect objects, too.

You can prepare by gathering some small bags, paper plates, glue, newspaper, a marker and magnifying glass.

Collecting Fun

Learning goes better on a full stomach, right? You can pack a picnic snack and explain you are taking a walk to look for signs of fall and collect colorful leaves, seeds and pebbles which stay the same in any season but are fun to collect. Take along an extra bag for paper garbage to clean up the area, too.

Fields, bike paths, shorelines, cemeteries and college campuses have a variety of trees and beautiful surroundings. Encourage children to collect and count many different types, sizes, colors, shapes and textures. You can include a library book of tree identification to help answer questions about why leaves change colors and fall.

Sorting Skills

After collecting and snacking, return home to sort out materials on newspapers based on characteristics. Print a title on each paper plate like leaves, seeds or pebbles.

Next, label more plates with characteristics (attributes). For leaves, you may use five plates labeled red, orange, green, brown and mixed colors. Plates for seeds may be acorn, maple, and flower and weed seeds, large and small. Pebble labels may be large, small, shiny, dull, smooth, rough, sharp, soft (sandstone) hard black, brown, white or speckled.

Casually help your children decide where the objects belong. Before you take a break, spread leaves in paper toweling and insert them in a large book. (Back to back cookie sheets will also work.) Then place some heavy weights on top to flatten the leaves as they dry.

When you’re ready for another project, take out paper plates, marker and glue. Children can glue the sorted objects to make designs, a number, category or their name. Children like to glue leaves, seeds and rocks on plates as a collage. Take a photo and send it to extended family or show during the next FaceTime.

Discuss different attributes of objects as children glue them on the plates. Young children will develop small hand muscles and learn to use small dabs of glue. It is very tempting to take a glue bottle and squeeze it neatly for children or place an object just so. Instead, give tips on how to hold the bottle and leave the rock where it is. The end product is not really important. It’s the process.

For more family fun see and Through the Seasons podcasts and live.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a lifelong love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education