Have fun looking for and sorting objects outside!

By Risa Young and Robin Smith


  • small brown paper lunch bags, paper plates
  • green construction paper, glue, and crayons

Developing Skills:

  • Children will use the math skills of sorting and classifying with materials they collect outdoors.

In Advance: Before you begin, explain to children that when you go outdoors they will have time to collect different kinds of interesting natural objects. Help them understand that it is important not to pull up any plants or break off branches. Talk about how plants and trees are alive and can be damaged if we are too rough with them.


Write each child's name on a paper bag and hand out the bags. Talk about the kinds of things children might collect, such as unusual stones, odd-shaped pieces of bark, dried weeds, fallen leaves, seedpods, and so on.

Invite children to take their time and explore the playground or local park area. Remind them that everyone is looking, and if they see more than one of a particular item, to please leave some for the other children. Children love the "treasure hunt" atmosphere and are excited over each "find."

As children discover items, talk to them about their finds. Encourage them to "use words" to name and describe the things they find.

After your collection walk, sit together in a sunny area to do a sorting activity. Together, sort the objects onto paper plates or into separate piles. First, set up a category. For example, ask children to sort all the big things on one plate and small things on another.

Place one of each type on the plates as a guide. As children sort, help them talk about their sorting choices. Ask them to share why they are putting something on a certain plate.

Then put all the objects in one big pile and sort them using other categories, such as color or texture. Keep changing your sorting categories as long as the children are interested.

SPIN-OFF: There is more than one color of green in our world, and this activity will certainly help children see many different shades. Start with a green collection walk where children collect anything that is green. (Again, remind them about being gentle with plants and trees.)

Upon returning from your walk, ask children to sort the "greens" onto paper plates. Set up the categories so there is an obvious choice-dark and light green. Then from there, break down your items into piles of smaller groups of shades. Together, you can practice counting skills as you count the number in each group. Later, use the collected items in green collages on green paper!


Butterfly House* by Eve Bunting (Scholastic, 1999; $17)

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia (Slack, 2002; $15)

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (Voyager, 2000; $7)

* To order, call 800-SCHOLASTIC.