Sorting stones in the outdoor classroom

We set up these recycled silver ware trays in our outdoor classroom for our students to explore sorting painted stones.

We prompted our students with one simple question: How can you sort the stones? This is all the direction that was given for this activity and we enjoyed observing where the students took this question! These trays were originally found as silver ware trays but we love using them for graphing, sorting, matching, and counting. For the rocks, we found some that were laying around in the yard and spray painted them all different colors. These rocks also make great loose part math items.

You could easily just set the rocks and trays out, but we decided to add some kitchen tongs! Can you tell we like shopping in the kitchen section? These larger tongs force the students to use their whole hand or both hands since their hands are so little. This activity is great at promoting hand eye coordination and large motor development!

Most of our older students were able to take this activity in their own direction. If you have younger students you could add dot stickers to create a pattern guide. This could also be a great way to help work on color recognition.

This activity also promotes a lot of conversation among the children. While doing this activity we heard them discussing how they would sort their stones, what pattern they would make, what colors they would use, and some even explained why they were choosing their colors!

All in all, this a fun and simple activity to add to your day! It’s amazing that such a simple activity can promote so much learning!


Links to grow on…

More on loose parts can be found here!


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By |2018-11-02T10:37:26+00:00July 17th, 2018|

About the Author:

Hi! I am Lauren Barkes. Currently, I am on staff with Deborah at the Teach Preschool Children's Studio. In The Children's Studio I teach class day to day and I also handle the administrative side of the school. I have been with Deborah in the classroom for about 5 years! I am currently in school to get my associate's degree in Early Childhood Education. I feel so honored to be apart of such a wonderful community in the early childhood field. I like to describe myself as a life long leaner, dreamer, and creator. I strive to continuously be building a life-long love for learning in my students!


  1. Rebecca July 22, 2018 at 8:40 am - Reply

    How old arw the children? How many days a week do they come to school?

    • Deborah Stewart July 24, 2018 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      They range from ages 3 to 5 and come three days a week.

  2. Sharon July 28, 2018 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I am so glad you posted this. I bought a silverware tray a few years ago to put shells in for my two and three year old class. Last year I started teaching the pre-k class and i have been looking for more ideas for them.

  3. Ashley Wright August 23, 2018 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Great Article!! Thanks for sharing such an amazing blog!! We used to have a different color of geometrical shapes and I used to ask my children to sort it out according to color and sometimes according to shapes. It was really fun.
    Thanks for sharing this I remembered the way I used to homeschool my children.

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