Preschool, variations include an older sibling
Toss a handful of various beans and dry pasta shapes into a bowl or container. Offer small containers for the sorted beans–it’s extra nice if these sorting containers are identical, like the cups from an egg carton or popsicle molds (as shown).
Show them how to carefully take one item out at a time. Demonstrate how to transfer the tiny items with pincer fingers, like a bird’s beak.
A table over a sweepable surface (not a carpet) is best, or on the deck or sidewalk. You can also contain the activity in a tray or cookie sheet.
If you have an older sibling along, they can participate by counting how many of each item are found. They can make a bar chart with their findings.
You can add on to the activity by offering thick paper or cardboard (maybe the side of an empty cereal box) and glue. The kids can make patterns and pictures by gluing the beans and noodles down.
The next day, get out their glued designs and some tempera paint and have them gently paint their 3-D works of art.
If you have a 2-3 year old, play a finding and counting game with them. Ask, “Can you give me two black beans?” “Now can you find one red bean and one macaroni?” You can also have them order the shapes from largest to smallest, heaviest to lightest, or their favorite to least favorite one to eat.
With a ballpoint pen or marker, draw two eyes on their pointer finger knuckle. Now their pincer fingers can be a bird finding food for its babies.