Building Critical Thinking Skills through Sorting Buttons

Critical thinking skills are an absolutely essential part of of learning. This is an often overlooked skill that is set aside in favor of skills that are more measurable like reading and math. But critical thinking skills build a strong foundation for all other skills. Being able to work out the details of a math problem or decode a word both rely on critical thinking. Taking apart the pieces of a problem and put them together into something that works is what critical thinking is all about. Today, I want to share with you how we’ve been working on building critical thinking skills through sorting buttons. A simple activity, with a lot of great ways to analyze!

sorting buttons

Materials needed for a button sorting critical thinking activity:

A large amount of buttons in various colors, shapes, and sizes.

Something to sort them in (We used a muffin tin, but you could sort them into piles on a table.)

I really can’t take credit for this activity since my 1st grader came up with it all on her own. I love it when she comes up with things that she thinks are play that are actually great skill builders.

child sorting buttons

We had a box full of buttons of all colors and shapes and Jaida started to think of ways that she could categorize them.

The first way she sorted them was by color which is a fairly easy, introductory way to sort them.

buttons sorted by color

After that, she began to notice that there were a lot of similar shapes in the pile, so she sorted them by shape.

buttons sorted by shape

 Then she sorted by size.

Depending on the variety of buttons you provide, they can be sorted in many ways.


Shiny/Not Shiny

How many holes

Holes in the center or back


You can also work this into a graphing activity by having your child graph the amounts of buttons in each pile.

The point is simply to analyze the buttons available and determine ways that they can be sorted.

And best of all for the teacher there is virtually no prep-work involved!!

color button sorting and classifying for critical thinking skills in preschool

Here are some other great ideas for building critical thinking skills.

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