From the M&D Playbook: The ABCs of Sorting Play

Magnetic Wooden Alphabet LettersBlocks, beads, crayons, coins, toy cars . . . As any parent knows, children can find ways to sort just about anything. One of our all-time favorites for grouping and sorting play: letter magnets! These seemingly simple toys can fuel surprisingly rich play for kids of all ages, and they’re terrific for building pre-literacy skills and having fun with emerging spelling skills.

Here are some of our favorite ways to play and learn with letter magnets:


  • Sort the letters by color. (A relatively simple—translation: encouraging!—way to get started.)
  • Sort the letters by size. (This can mean uppercase/lowercase or a more subjective big/small, depending on how well your child knows letter shapes.)
  • Group all the letters with “holes” (closed letters such as a, o, g) and the letters with no holes (open letters such as w, r, v).
  • Look for other visible differences between the letters and come up with your own groupings! (Examples: letters with tails, letters that criss-cross, letters with two bumps or angles, symmetrical letters…)


  • Sort the consonants from the vowels.
  • Sort uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Pair each uppercase letter with its lowercase partner.
  • Group all the letters that can make different sounds (hard or soft, long or short).
  • Group all the letters in your name.

Toy Tip: If you have a magnetic dry-erase board, all the better! You can draw and label boundaries for each grouping right on the board.

What are your favorite sorting games? Let us know in the comments section!