Sequencing is the ability to remember an order of events or instructions. We use sequencing skills all day by ordering what we need to do first, second, third, last, etc. As grownups, we don’t think twice about the steps to brush our teeth, tie our shoes, or cook an everyday recipe. We easily prioritize errands to fit into our lunch hour, or put our work to-do lists in order.
If you’re wondering how long of a list your child should be able to remember or follow, a good rule of thumb is that young children are able to remember a sequence with approximately as many steps as their age. For example, a two-year-old can likely complete a two-step direction; three-year-olds can often sequence three steps, and so on.
Like most skills, learning to sequence is a skill that can be practiced. Looking for ways throughout your day to help your child practice following steps or remembering a sequence is a great way to build the sequencing skills needed for writing, pre-reading and comprehension.
This practice can come in the form of giving instruction (i.e., Pick up your socks and then take them to Daddy.), giving a sequence of events (First, we’ll eat breakfast, then we’ll get dressed, and then we’ll go to Kindermusik!), or discovering the sequence in a story book.
Here are some other ideas that can be easily done at home:
Ages 2 and up
Encourage your child to think sequentially simply by asking questions. “It’s raining. What do you need to put on before you go out to play?” “Tell me what you did at Nana’s house today.” “How do you get ready for your bath?” Take a walk in your neighborhood and then ask your child to give directions as you head back home. Read familiar books together and then pause between pages. Ask “What happens next?”
Ages 3 and up
Find printable picture sequencing cards online, or purchase a box at any learning store. They come in 3 to 6 scene sets. Talk about the pictures and put them in order, using sequencing words like: first, second, next, then, and last. If four cards are too many to put in order, then start with two or three.
Print out photos of your child from birth to present. Mix the photos up and have your child put them in order. At first, you may need to give clues to help. Encourage your child to describe the photos using words like: taller, shorter, younger, older, smaller, bigger. When the photos are in order, have your child describe what she sees. “This is when I learned to crawl. Next I learned to walk. Now I can jump on my trampoline.”
Ages 4 and up
Practice storytelling. We play a game called The Storybook Game. We take turns flipping over cards in a row and adding the nouns pictured on the cards into the story. It can be used as a memory type game for retelling a story, but we often leave the pictures face up. Expect to hear a lot of “and then… and then…” until your child gets a good vocabulary of sequence words. You of course, model those words by using them in your storytelling. Make sure your story has an ending!
Have your child make simple recipes like a peanut butter and honey sandwich, or grapes and string cheese. Talk about the food preparation. You’d be surprised at how many steps there are to getting grapes and string cheese ready to eat! If you’ve got child who likes to draw, have him draw out (in order) what he did to make the sandwich.
Ages 5 and up
Get those magnetic letters and numbers back out. Starting with two (and adding more as she gets better), have your child arrange the letters or numbers in order. Since most 5 year olds can count or say the alphabet in order, make it harder by not starting at the beginning, or skipping letters and numbers. For instance, your child will have to figure out the missing letters in between W, B, L, X, T in order to put them in proper sequence.
Play a game. Dice games like Bunco, Yahtzee and Phase 10 Dice are all great for teaching more complex sequencing skills.
-posted by Miss Analiisa, whose favorite game right now is Rummikub, which also requires the ability to manipulate sequences of tiles, best done in your head so your opponent doesn’t catch on…