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!

color button sorting and classifying for critical thinking skills in preschool

Recommended Grade Level:

Materials for the Color Sorting & Classifying Activity

  • Paint Chips
  • Rainbow-colored buttons

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!!

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Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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