Fish Sorting Activity: Cognitive Lesson Plan for Toddlers

by Carla on September 17, 2009

Toddlers and children of preschool age love activities that include water, animals, and the opportunity to get messy. Fish sorting is a fun and activity that can be used in daycare centers and preschools to support cognitive development.

Cognitive development focuses on developing functions of the brain such as thinking, learning, awareness, judgment, and processing information.  Cognitive development centers around how children learn and process information. It is the development of brain in functions such as language, thinking, mental imagery, reasoning, problem solving, and memory development.

Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget contends that children go through several stages of cognitive development.  From birth through the age of 2, children are in the Sensory-Motor Stage. In this stage, children learn through sensation and movement. From ages of 2-7, children are in the Pre-Operational Stage. At this point they are learning to use symbols (language) to represent objects, and beginning to understand the concept of conservation. It is also the phase in which memory and imagination are developed. Learning activities for toddlers and children should correspond to the appropriate developmental.

To help foster cognitive development, implement this fish sorting lesson plan. Make use of the age-appropriate learning objectives and some of the supporting verbal cues necessary to encourage participation and support learning.

List of materials:

  • Plastic fish in various sizes
  • One large plastic container or bucket or sensory table
  • Water, sand, seashells, and green Easter grass
  • Two plastic containers for sorting
  • Small fishnets


In a large container or sensory table, add water, sand, seashells, and green Easter grass to create a body of water. Place large and small plastic fish in the water. Place fishnets nearby so that the children can scoop out the fish with them. Place two containers nearby for sorting.


Invite the children over to the large container or sensory table. Explain to them that they will be collecting (fishing for) fish. Encourage the children to collect big and small fish with the net. Once they are caught, encourage the children to sort the fish into two containers; one for big fish and one for small fish.

Objective 1: To develop an understanding of classification by encourage children to sort fish by size

  • Verbal Cue A: Can you sort the fish into big and small?
  • Verbal Cue B: Let’s put the big fish in one container and the small fish in another one.

Objective 2: To teach about relationships using the terms small, big, and bigger

  • Verbal cue A: Let’s collect all of the small fish and place them in this container.
  • Verbal Cue B: Which fish is bigger?

Objective 3: To introduce the number concept of 1-10

  • Verbal Cue A: Let’s count the number of small fish.
  • Verbal Cue B: Let’s count the number of large fish.

Kids will have great fun in your childcare center while learning important cognitive skills: sorting and classification.

About Carla

Carla Snuggs has written 88 post in this blog.

Carla is a freelance writer from Southern California. She has a B.A. in early childhood education and a Master of Library and Information Science degree specializing in public librarianship and youth services.

No related posts.

Leave a Comment

More Daycare Resources

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: