Categorizing involves more than just sorting into groups. It's also a fundamental life skill for problem solving. A strong ability to categorize helps children face the challenges thrown at them by life, helping them become better equipped to solve problems by knowing where to get answers, who to ask for help and what tools they might need.
These Ten apps help teach the basics of categories! Read on to learn our top favorites for teaching even the youngest iPad users.
In this short list of daily life skills, notice how important the ability to categorize is:
- Organizing appropriate clothing for the day's activities and expected weather.
- Buying food for the week at the market or shopping center.
- Washing a load of clothes.
- Taking care of personal hygiene (showering, going to the bathroom, shaving, brushing teeth).
- Paying bills (Check this article for more on teaching money management).
- Organizing household chores (dusting, vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning the bathroom and toilet).
- Putting out trash bins on the correct day and bringing them back in again.
- Reading the local newspaper to find out what is happening in the community.
- Cooking a meal using a simple recipe from a cook book.
Of course young children aren't ready to take over the household quite yet, so the first five apps address basic sorting skills.
Sort It Out 1 by MyFirstApp.com (iPhone/iPad, FREE with in-app purchase)
The first two themes of Sort It Out 1 are free: transport and toys. Transport involves sorting a load of vehicles into ocean, land or sky transport, while Toys involves sorting the toys onto three shelves for balls, soft toys and vehicles. There are eight other themes available with purchase of the full version for $2.99, including fruit, clothes, emotions, and shapes. In addition, MyFirstApp.com has more apps to help with categories, like Sort It Out 2 with another 12 themes (the first 2 free).
Simple Sort is a bilingual app, using both English and Spanish for teaching. Before sorting out the items into categories, students are able to learn new vocabulary by clicking on the “Learn” option.There are 20 categories and students are able to choose the number to sort, from 2-6 at a time. The game can be played as an untimed or timed game, and both music and sound effects can be switched off while playing
What I love most about Grasshopper apps is the customization. Not only can the options be customized (sound on/off etc.), but the actual items can be customized too, including the pictures and the sounds. This app comes with 15 practice sets to be included or not by switching them on or off. The minimum and maximum number of items played each time can also be selected. It is also a good app to help children match items that belong together, such as pants & belt, pool & lifeguard, and so on.
This app has ten levels, and the first is free. Each page shows five items, one of which does not belong with the rest, (oranges, apples, pineapple, cheese, nectarines). A child’s voice gives verbal instructions such as “Put the picture that does not belong in the trash can.” When completed, the user is rewarded with verbal praise such as “Good thinking.” A wrong answer will give a response such as “Oopsie Daisy” or “Try again.”
Putting things into "like" groups, matching items that belong together, and choosing the odd one out are all precursors to literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. These skills help children to develop reasoning and logic. Then next five great apps to help work out belonging and difference:
Like Grasshopper Apps, this app is very customizable with ability to include pictures of items relevant to the student, and record the user's or student's voice for verbal instructions and praise. Each page shows four items and the student needs to tap the item that doesn’t belong. For example, when shown rabbit, dog, bird, and pen, pen is obviously the item that doesn’t belong. Sometimes they are more complicated, such as four items all the same colour (e.g. grey) with the odd one out being a different colour to the others (e.g. green). This may challenge students to look beyond their first response to find other reasons why items may not belong.
Families 1 by MyFirstApp.com (iPhone/iPad, FREE with in-app purchase)
Like Sort It Out 1, this app has 12 themes with the first two free (animals and parties). In the middle of the page is a square with three items and a gap. Surrounding the square are seven other items, one of which belongs with the three in the square. The child drags the correct item into the square and then another three items (different to the first) will appear in the square. Once all the items from around the square have been matched inside the square, that theme is complete.
FREE Lite Version: Full version, $.99
This is a very simple app that’s still quite a bit of fun. Each page shows an animal and a choice of three foods to feed it---a dog is pictured with a flower, some grass and a bone. When asked, “What does a [dog] eat?” then child needs to drag the correct food item to the animal to feed it. A wrong answer will give a response such as “Yukky” and a correct answer will show the animal eating the food.
Free iPhone (IAP): Full iPhone ($1.99):
Free iPad (IAP) Full iPad ($1.99)
The first of four levels is free in the free version, and both the in-app purchase and the full version are $1.99. It has a super cute creature operating a machine that brings up four rows of sweets. At the beginning of each row is an item that the child needs to match to the item that is the same. It’s a timed game, but even if the child scores 0, a cheer will sound when the time is up. Extra time is given for correct answers and the child has practice with spacial orientation, as items can sometimes appear on their side or upside down.
Bo's Bedtime Story by Heppi (iPhone/iPad, FREE/$1.99)
This is an interactive story about Bo The Giraffe going to bed, and of course step one is to put toys away. There are three buckets to sort the cars, dolls and blocks. Other activities in the story develop skills such as counting, fine motor and color matching. Each page of the story can be skipped by pressing the arrow to go to the next page if desired.
TinyHands Sorting by TinyHands (iPad Only, FREE)
TinyHands provides a variety of board settings for sorting objects with increasing difficulty. Children will acquire basic sorting skills through these apps.
These Top Ten apps provide a great start to developing categorization skills in young children. Start today to help children develop the necessary skills to prepare them as they grow.
Cas Pearson would like it noted that she spells it "categorising." She is also the mother to four children, a special needs assistant, and an iPad app addict!
Heather Hetler also contributed to this post. She is able to sort her children's clothing correctly, but cannot categorize many other things in her household.