A Bit of a Sort

One of my favourite things over Christmas – or indeed at any time – is watching the small child / box /wrapping paper / excitement interface, and marvelling at how this has no bearing on the gift itself. I’m also fascinated by the frequent disconnect between adult expectation and actual child reaction to the gift, especially later on when the frenzy has subsided, and children choose which gems from their bounty to play with, and of course, how that play happens.

A friend of mine was hugely disappointed and frustrated to see his young son spend hours sorting out his new cache of lego bricks, firstly by colour, then by size, then by, “Which ones I like the best.”

“Why can’t he just build something?!”, his father bemoaned.

Which got me thinking afresh about sorting.

I heard Michael Rosen talking about this last year. He said children sorting, grading and changing things around according to categories of their choosing displays higher orders of thinking according to Blooms Taxonomy – and he’s right.

I can remember, at around aged 6, spending a whole day sorting my ‘June and Schoolfriend’ comics (showing my age there) into date order and that activity means that even now I can recall specific issues. I did a similar thing on the landing of our old house with a collection of clay turtles I got from Portugal, pondering whether the group of larger turtles should be the Mummies or the Daddies. Likewise – you remember those 2D cardboard figures with a collection of paper clothes attached by paper tabs? – I was forever arranging them by colour, preference and suitable occasion for wearing. I did the same sort of thing with my toy cars.

These are almost the only specific recollections I have of playing alone, even though I was an only child for eight years.

It’s telling that ‘Sorted!’ has entered the vernacular to mean something broader than its etymology. After all, what do we think of when we envisage a well-organised person? And surely this is a thing we all aspire to be.

So – let’s have some respect for the joy and worth of sorting, it’s not all about the end product and satisfaction of having your CDs in alphabetical order – in watching the process, you can almost see the connections in the brain firing up.

It’s New Year, and we’ve all got those places that need a good old sort, so enjoy! Maybe your children can help you do it.


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