How to teach your child to categorize


Is your child confusing fruits and vegetables? Is your 3 year old struggling to identify different body parts or where his shoes belong? As children’s vocabulary advances, they learn to separate into categories the things they are seeing and interacting with. As adults, we do this without even realizing it; you can come across something you’ve never seen before, yet you’re able to immediately classify it based on its characteristics. If it grows on a tree, it’s a fruit. If it walks on four legs, it’s an animal. With a few simple day-to-day exercises, you can teach your child to become a pro at sorting all different types of items too.

Through practice, explanation, and experiences, you can teach your child to categorize appropriately. Use dressing time each morning as an opportunity to teach your child:

1. Define each article of clothing that your child is putting on (“this is your shirt, socks, pants, skirt etc.”) and have the child repeat you to learn the name of the item.  Ask him to point to, pick up, or give you specific pieces of clothing.  This will allow your child to expand his receptive vocabulary, or the words he understands.

2. After some time, your child will be ready and able to label each article of clothing for you on his own. Play a little game with your child, pretending to forget what various items of clothing are called, and see if your child can come up with the name independently.  Model the correct word if your child cannot remember it.  At this stage, your child is learning to expand his expressive vocabulary, or the words he knows how to say.

3. Once your child can identify and label various pieces of clothing, emphasize that each garment is called “clothing” because you put it on your body to get dressed each day.  Make a little song to your favorite tune that includes all the different items of clothing that your child wears daily.

These steps can be used to teach your child about an assortment of categories. Use dinner time as an opportunity to examine and study all the different kinds of vegetables that go into a salad. Use bath time as an occasion to learn parts of the body, and a walk down the block to discover what you see in the sky.  In no time, your child will begin to classify the world around him. And pretty soon, you’ll find yourself humming your creative songs as well.

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About the Author: The Therapy Spot
The Therapy Spot of Baltimore is a multi-disciplinary pediatric therapy center, featuring an energetic group of experienced and qualified therapists. We provide speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy to children in the greater Baltimore region.