Sorting is a fundamental human activity. It’s about noticing the difference between things. Even In the womb, babies begin to sort, noticing light/dark, sound/no sound. For young children, it’s about making a choice: this, not that. And seeing that one thing is different to another. How can you count without knowing that two is different to three? How can you read without noticing that b is different to d? The older children get, the more nuanced the differences they notice become, left wellington and right wellington, brown bread and white.
With a set of bowls like these Grimm’s nested bowls or Grimm’s boxes, your child can sort objects into groups. It could be red beads in the red bowl and blue beads in the blue bowl, to begin with. Later, it could be things beginning with a in the red bowl e in the yellow bowl, u in the green bowl. Your child might decide to invent categories of their own.
Nested bowls are also a great way to learn about seriation, that small things fit inside larger things and that there is an order in which things must be arranged if the whole set is to fit back together. This is basic maths and helps children understand that numbers have an order, that smaller numbers fit inside bigger ones.
Bowls are also useful for mixing things. Use them to make dough or slime, or when you are play-cooking. Fill them with water and they are miniature fishponds or boating lakes.