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Sort in the Box Review by Karen Waide

American Educational Products, LLC
(800) 289-9299
401 Hickory Street
Fort Collins, Colorado 80524

We love hands-on learning products in our homeschool. In fact, I feel they are very important. That is why I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review Sort in the Box from American Educational Products, LLC. This hands-on sorting box gives young children (ages 3-6) the chance to work on classification skills.

Sort in the Box is a sturdy, wooden box that contains four compartments into which children can sort thick square tiles. Each compartment of this 12-inch long by 4-inch deep by 3-inch tall box has a different colored lid with a slot for the tiles and an indentation for the sub-category cards to sit in. These lids are hinged and they lift easily from the front. A child (or adult) need only to stick their finger through the small hole that has been cut into the front top of each compartment, and lift. The lids are made of thicker wood than the sides of the box, but it is not too heavy that little fingers will be hurt if the lid falls on them.

There are 60 object tiles and 12 sub-category cards. Also included is an instruction sheet that includes a pictorial listing of all the cards and tiles included, shown sorted into the correct categories. The object tiles, which are approximately 1 ½ inch squares, are divided into three main categories: animals, shapes, and visual features. Each category can then be sorted into 4 different sub-categories. A child will have to figure out if the animals belong on land, in the water, in both land and water, or in the air. The shape tiles depict pictures of objects which fit into one of four shapes: circle, star, triangle, or square. And the visual discrimination tiles show items that have different patterns on them: horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, small polka dots, and big polka dots.

As children use this product, they will be developing their vocabulary. The cards are double-sided, with pictures on one side, and words on the back. Younger children can work with a parent (or teacher). Objects that are unknown can be named by the parent, helping the child to expand their vocabulary. Children who are a bit older can work independently as long as they can recognize what all the pictures represent.

In addition to sorting and vocabulary skills, children will also be able to work on their reading skills. All you need to do is turn the tiles so they are word-side up. The child can read the word (with assistance as needed) and then flip the tile around to see if they got the word correct and to determine which compartment to place the tile in.

In my opinion, the animal cards are the easiest to sort as the child only needs to figure out where the animal lives. Using the visual discrimination tiles is a bit more challenging, because a child has to discriminate between large and small polka dots and horizontal and vertical lines. The shape tiles can be a bit tricky, because a child needs to be able to see a shape within the picture. Some are quite obvious, like the starfish or the basketball. Others like the tent and the jack-in-the-box take a bit more discernment.

I usually allow my youngest two children, who are 4 and 6 years old, to use the Sort in the Box independently. They choose the category they would like to work with, and I set the sub-category cards in the indentations on the lid. The tiles for their selected category are placed in front of them, and they start sorting. The tiles for the other two categories are set aside. There have been times they have needed a bit of guidance when they weren’t sure where to place a tile, but they generally work alone. 

If they decide they need a bit more of a challenge, I plan to have them place all the tiles in front of them on the table and require them to choose only the ones needed for the category they are currently sorting. You can also change it up by using sub-category cards from different categories at the same time. For example, a child can be required to look for stars, squares, land animals, and horizontal stripes. The one thing I would have loved to see, is a way to combine sub-categories. For example, if the shapes also had different patterns from the visual discrimination tiles.

I like that it is quite easy to keep the Sort in the Box components stored neatly. We just put the tiles for each category in separate compartments and the sub-category cards go in the remaining one. I also have continued to store it in the box it came in, so the lids are secure. I would prefer the children not drop this and have pieces scatter and get lost.

The Sort in the Box is well made and perfect for young children to work on classification skills, in addition to developing their vocabulary, reading, and fine motor skills. My children enjoy using it, and even the older ones enjoy taking a turn.

I appreciate that Sort in the Box is hand crafted using non-toxic coating. The printing is done with soy-based ink and pthalate-free lamination on recycled paper and board.

Please be aware that this product is not suitable for children younger than 3 years old, as the tiles are a choking hazard. Sort in the Box can be purchased for $24.95.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September, 2016