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E2BN Early Years Maths

16-26 months


  • Are learning to classify by organising and arranging toys with increasing intent.
  • Catagorise objects according to their properties

Observation 1

Amy was playing on the carpet; she chose a basket of miniature plastic fruit from the shelves. She sorted them into lines, each type and colour in a separate row. As she worked she was extremely focused, her body language showing her intensity and concentration. There were other children moving around her all the time, but this did not disturb her.

Comment: The way these fruits are classified and arranged reminds me of many children's picture books; One, two three with Ant and Bee and The very hungry caterpillar for example. Although sorting and classifying is a common behaviour of 16-26 month olds we see this behaviour continuing here in a sophisticated way. Amy has identified objects by type or/and colour and arranged them in such a way that it would be easy to chat with her and talk about "more" and "less". A practitioner may like to set a challenging problem, such as "I bet we have more oranges than both the lemons and strawberries put together. Shall we try and find out...how could we do this?" This could lead naturally into calculating and possibly mark making.

Observation 2

Bertie had been playing with the small coloured dinosaurs for quite a long time. He then moved from using them for imaginative play to placing them in particular ways. He stood each dinosaur up very carefully. "There", he said proudly pointing to the dinosaurs, "I've matched them........look I've lined them up".

Comment: Sometimes how children see the categories and arrangements of objects is not always apparent. Putting two of a kind in one place and another two elsewhere is entirely appropriate for this stage of development, just as at one moment classifying by colour and at another by type might also be entirely logical. What is important is that Bertie is attributing meaning to what he is doing, he is classifying the objects with his own logical reasons. Bertie will gradually refine his sorting, matching and classifying skills through opportunities to play with objects in this way.