Laundry Sorting

In this lesson, children will sort "laundry" by color, size, shape and clothing attribute.

Math Lesson for:

Toddlers/Preschoolers
(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:

Algebra
Data Analysis and Probability
Measurement

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

• Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement
• Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize and display relevant data to answer these questions
• Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

• Sorting and classifying objects according to their attributes and organizing data about the objects
• Recognizing the attributes of length, volume, weight, area and time and then comparing and ordering objects according to these attributes
• Formulating questions that can be addressed with data and collecting, organizing and displaying relevant data to answer these questions

Laundry Sorting

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

• Doll clothing from your dramatic play area or the children’s own clothing (Using the children’s own clothing works particularly well during the winter season, when children have hats, scarves, mittens and other outdoor gear. To make sure that the children are able to sort by colors, sizes and shapes, it is best to organize the materials beforehand. You can also create different clothing items (shirts, pants, socks, skirts, shorts, dresses, hats, etc.) using stencils and colored construction paper (blue, red, green, yellow). Keep the cutouts simple (e.g., a basic shirt shape in several colors and in small and large sizes).
• Small plastic produce baskets such as the ones that berries come in or large laundry baskets (the size of the basket will be determined by the size of the objects that you are using)

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

1. Ask the children if they have ever helped their family members or friends with the laundry. Ask them what they need to do before they actually wash the laundry. Explain that, before people do laundry, they often need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributesSay: People often sort their laundry by color. I sort my laundry into light colors like white and pale pink and darks like black and dark blue. Sometimes, people sort their laundry by types of clothing. I sort my laundry into jeans, towels and delicates such as underwear, t-shirts and fancy shirts. Sometimes, people separate their laundry by size. I sort my laundry by large items such as blankets and comforters and small items such as socks, mittens and hand towels.”
2. Explain that today the children are going to be given piles of laundry. Tell them that their job is to sort the laundry according to various attributes.
3. Give the children a working definition of the word attribute: “A characteristic like size, shape or color.”

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

1. Give each child the laundry cutouts and several baskets. Make sure there are enough baskets to accommodate the attributes that the children will be sorting.
2. Start sorting with just two attributesSay: “Our first sort will be by size. You will have two baskets and you will be sorting your laundry into big and little piles. Who can give me an example of a piece of laundry that is big?” (Coat, towel, pants)  “Yes. Go ahead and put your big laundry into one basket and the other basket will be for small laundry. Who can give me an example of small laundry?” (Mittens, hand towels, underwear) Once their piles of laundry have been correctly sorted, tell the children to put all of their laundry back into a pile and get ready for the next sort.
3. Increase the attributes and also give the children more baskets. Give the children one basket for each of the attributes that they will be sorting by. Say: “Next we are going to sort by color. What different colors do you see in your laundry pile?” (Blue, red, green, yellow) “So, all of the yellow pieces of laundry will go into one basket and all of your green pieces of laundry will go into another basket and so on.” Once their piles of laundry have been correctly sorted, have them put all of their laundry back into a pile and get ready for the last sort.
4. Say: “Our last sort is going to be by type of clothing.” Again, make sure the children have the correct number of baskets to match the number of sort topics. Say: “Let’s start by sorting our laundry into piles of clothing that we wear on the top parts of our bodies and clothing that we wear on the bottom parts of our bodies. Who can give me an example of clothing that we wear on the top parts of our bodies?” (Hats, shirts, jackets)  “What is an example of clothing that we wear on the bottom parts of our bodies?” (Pants, socks, underwear) You can suggest a number of sorts within this category:
• Pieces of laundry that you don’t wear but that still need to be washed (towels, blankets) and pieces of laundry that you do wear
• Clothing that you wear inside and clothing that you wear outside
• Clothing that you wear when it is cold outside and clothing that you wear when it is hot outside
• Clothing that you wear to sleep, to play sports, to go to school or to attend a fancy event
• Clothing that you wear to swim, to play soccer or to sled

• Create piles of laundry pieces with the same attributes. Have the children try to figure out the common attribute of all of the items in the pile.
• Have the children come up with their own attributes for laundry sorting. Ask a child if he/she can come up with a way to sort the laundry.
• Create a questionnaire that the children can use to collect their data. (On the long side of a sheet of paper, list all of the children’s first names. At the top of the sheet, list the various categories, such as red shirts, blue pants, white socks and yellow sweaters. Make a grid of each child’s name and the listed category, so that there is a box under each category on the same line that the child’s name is listed. Tell the children to interview their classmates and record their data on the sheets.)

Step 4: Math vocabulary.

• Attribute: A characteristic like size, shape, or color (e.g., “Many times, before people do laundry, they need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributes.”)
• Sort: Separate items according to a given attribute (e.g., “Many times, before people do laundry, they need to sort their laundry into specific piles according to specific attributes.”)

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Toddlers may:
• Have difficulty recognizing the category sorts
Home child care providers may:
• Brainstorm various category ideas
• Have the children respond to questions that have many right answers
• Incorporate these questions into the attributes that make up the various sorts (for example, ask the children what types of clothes they wear to go outside and then ask them to find those clothes in the laundry pile)
Preschoolers may:
• Easily identify laundry items possessing like attributes
Home child care providers may:
• Create piles of laundry pieces with the same attributes and ask the children to try to figure out the common attribute of all of the items in the pile
• Have the children come up with their own laundry sorting attributes or ask a child if he/she can come up with a way to sort the laundry
• Create a questionnaire that the children can use to collect their data. (On the long side of a sheet of paper, list all of the children’s first names. At the top of the sheet, list the various categories, such as red shirts, blue pants, white socks and yellow sweaters. Make a grid of each child’s name and the listed category, so that there is a box under each category on the same line that the child’s name is listed. Tell the children to interview their classmates and record their data on the sheets.)

Suggested Books

• Sort it Out! by Barbara Mariconda (Mt. Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2008)
• Sorting by Henry Arthur Pluckrose. (New York: Children’s Press, 1995)
• Grandma’s Button Box by Linda Williams Aber (Minneapolis, MN: Kane Press Paperback, 2002)

Outdoor Connections

• A great fall activity rich with opportunity: The children can collect different types of autumn leaves and then sort and categorize the leaves by shape, size and color.
• Play Guess My Rule. Instead of using a physical trait as an attribute, use an action as an attribute. Sort all of the things that you see outside that fly. Sort all of the items that move and don’t move, grow and don’t grow or need water and do not need water. pbskids.org/zoom/activities/sci/guessmyrule.html