Need a Button?

Sorting Colored Pom-Poms with Tongs

Sweet Pea is 27 months old.


From: I saw these nesting multi-colored gift boxes and thought they would make an excellent color sorting activity.


  • Several different colored containers (I bought my gift box set from the party section in Hobby Lobby, but think that colored toddler bowls or nesting cups would work well too.)
  • 25-30 Pom-poms which match the colors of each of the containers.
  • 1 neutral colored container to hold the pompoms.
  • Tongs.



  • Set out all of the colored boxes and the container of pom-poms.
  • Sit next to your tot and demonstrate carefully using the tongs to pick up a pom-pom.  Say, “This pom-pom is blue (or whatever color it actually is).  I want to put it in the blue box.”
  • Slowly move the pom-pom over the boxes until you find the matching one and say, “Here it is.  I’ll put the blue pom-pom in the blue box,” as you drop it in.
  • Repeat with another color pom-pom and then let your tot try.

Observations: At first Sweet Pea didn’t understand that we were sorting the pom-poms by color.   She just wanted to use the tongs and was moving pom-poms randomly between all of the containers.  When she put one in the wrong colored container, I said, “Oh you put a blue one in the yellow box.  Let’s put it in the blue box,” and moved it for her.  She caught on very quickly and seemed to enjoy sorting them by color once she had the idea.

However, I know in Montessori classrooms the teacher is not supposed to correct a child.  Every time I redirect Sweet Pea, I wonder if I should just remain silent and let her do what she wants with the materials.

Every useless help given to the child becomes an obstacle to his development this is not merely philosophy but a fact to which we attach fundamental importance.

– Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child, Volume One

When I try influence the way Sweet Pea is doing an activity, I often wonder if I’m making my own mistake.  However, if I don’t correct her, then the whole point of the activity might be missed.  Obviously teachers correct children all the time in non-Montessori classrooms.  I don’t really know enough about educating small children to know how much interference is too much.  Does anyone else struggle with this?


Despite my inner conflict, Sweet Pea liked this activity a lot.  She definitely enjoyed it more than most sorting activities I have presented.  I think it is because she really likes practicing with the tongs.  She worked on this for quite some time…

…and then, with unbridled 2-year-old enthusiasm, Sweet Pea broke the tongs in half.   It wasn’t pretty.

C’est la vie.

Notes from the Trenches: I regret that I only bought 1 pair of tongs.  For $1, it seems like I  would have thought to buy a spare.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Independent, Frugal if you are creative – crumpled bits of paper and using a variety of colored containers from your home, for example.)


5 comments to Sorting Colored Pom-Poms with Tongs

  • I definitely struggle with correction! I’ve slowly started to remember that I need to show her the correct way to begin with. Half the time she grabs the tray and I don’t demonstrate how to play with the activity. I’m trying to get better about the up front instruction so then I can let her explore on her own after that.

  • I am trying not to let the guilt get to me and correct/help a lot. Maybe a little too much – Anna doesn’t try for long before “delegating” a challenging activity to me. By the way, incidentally we tried to sort pom-poms with tongs today as well, but Anna was less then interested. What was the problem? She already played happily with those pom-poms for a few days using them as play food. When I suggested to sort them into cups by color using tongs, she looked at me like I lost my mind. Sorting is completely boring to her, and she wasn’t nearly fascinated by tongs as all the kids on all the blogs I’ve seen. Well, maybe I’ll try again with something else once we are back home.

  • I’m absolutely trying this tomorrow, as we have a set of colored cups from Ikea that have never been freed from their packaging.

    And, I totally and entirely struggle with the aspect of correction. I’ve always gently guided her toward the mistake and corrected it either hand-over-hand or (most often) doing it for her and explaining what I was doing. However, I often feel like I need to step back. I actually DID this week, when we were sorting letters because I wanted to see if she’d go back and fix them. She didn’t, and she ended up telling me that they were “fine” to stay where they were. Um, okay. 🙂

    Can’t wait to try this tomorrow!

  • roz

    I got tweezer/tongs in a school supply store. They were gorgeous plastic ones in 6 colors that match my cups. They were 10.00 for 12.. a great deal. Another teacher and I split them. I have the color cups and use my counting bears, pom poms, colored frogs and anything else I can find for the children to sort. They are very worth the money. Share the set with someone else.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>