The Importance Of Sequencing Skills In A Child’s Development

The Importance Of Sequencing Skills In Child Development

Sequencing skills are extremely important in everyone’s day to day life but typically taken for granted.

Sequencing is an example of foundation skills I refer to in many of my articles.

I cannot stress enough how important it is for young children to learn “foundation” skills that they can use to build other skills on in the future.

Without these early skills in place children are left with gaps in their overall development.

I didn’t choose a picture of a sandwich as the main picture of this article just to make your mouth water.

I choose it because a sequence was used in order to create the sandwich!

I recently wrote an article called Are Toys That Teach Kids How To Code Necessary In Today’s Electronic World? in which I state that these types of toys are not necessary for a child’s optimal development.

You may be wondering what that article has to do with this one about sequencing so I will get right to it.

Learn to code toys are essentially teaching children about higher level sequencing concepts.

But if a child doesn’t have the basic concepts of sequencing first, they are jumping all over the place.

So before you head out to buy the latest and greatest learn to code toy for your 3 year old, continue reading this article to learn how sequencing skills develop and why they are so important.

Once your child has a grasp on sequencing, then by all means try out one of these toys!

What Is Sequencing From A Language Development Perspective

Broken down into tiny parts, sequencing can be as minuscule as arranging sounds to form a word (the order obviously varies from one language to another).

The importance of sequencing skills in language development starts from birth. Click to learn why sequencing is such an important skill for future learning #babies #parentingtips #speechtherapy

For example, in English you would not start a word with a letter combination such as “Pdl”.

This may be appropriate in another language, but not in English.  Children must learn this.  Once this has been sorted out it’s time to figure out word order.

The sentences in this article are all made up of sequences.

If I wrote “kids for some sequencing challenging can be” you most likely would be able to figure out what I was trying to say, but if the whole article was written that way you would wonder what was wrong with me.

In order to arrange ideas, information and language (sounds and words) you must have some sequencing skills in place.

You can also think of sequences as steps to meet an end goal.

The goal of arranging sounds is to make a word, the goal of getting a plate, placing 2 slices of bread onto it, getting a knife and spreading butter onto the bread and then adding items like lettuce, meat and tomatoes is to make a sandwich.

Children also need sequencing in order to follow directions.

As kids get older the directions we give them get more complex.

For example, “put away your dishes, then get your coat so we can head to the car.  Don’t forget to close the door if you are the last one to leave!”

If a child is struggling with language development and sequencing they may remember what was said but have no idea what order to do the things in and get overwhelmed.

To someone with intact and developed sequencing skills this instruction could be given out of order, but you would still logically know what to do first, next, last.

There are many children who struggle with sequencing and these difficulties typically stem from issues with language development, executive function skills (e.g. working memory, processing speed, organization, etc.) or attention.

But I won’t get into that in this article.

Sequencing and Literacy

While I was practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist I often worked on sequencing skills with 4 and 5 year olds.  Any idea why?

The answer is in the heading right above this paragraph!

The ability to sequence is an important skill for comprehension, reading and writing.

If a child is unable to sequence a series of events it will be very difficult to understand the timeline of a story once they begin reading.

Why I didn't teach my toddler to read banner

Complex Sequencing

This is the type of skill I that someone working as a software developer would require.

You can’t go from not understanding basic sequencing to this kind of sequencing.

Unfortunately this kind of sequencing isn’t really taught in school as it is more complex.

Although I think it would really help many people to be taught this skill.

I stumbled on an interesting piece of research a while ago that inspired me to write this article.

The research focused on 15 year old students from 41 countries.

The researchers gave these students an assessment looking at the students’ capabilities in math literacy, science literacy and reading literacy.

But what they really wanted to see was how what students had learned in school transferred to the ability to solve real problems that they may encounter later on.

What they found was that students struggled to develop higher order sequences.

You can read more about that here.

What is the Best toy for language development?

Sequencing Activities For Children

Below are some ideas for working on sequencing in playful ways for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school aged children.

Babies

Signing, Talking and Reading

Do these three with your little one all day long to promote sound sequencing.

Once your baby is about 12 months old you may hear their first word.

By 18 months many are starting to combine words.  Even with 2 word combinations there should be a first and last sequence.

For example, “drink milk” is an expected 2 word combination a child under 2 may say.  But “milk drink” doesn’t sound quite right.

This is a good reason to try to use as grammatically correct phrases and sentences as possible, right from the start!

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Singing and Dancing

For toddlers you can practice sequencing through song and dance.

Sing a familiar song such as Old McDonald or If You’re Happy and You Know It.

As your child starts knowing what to expect leave out a word or action for them to fill in.

Or make up a few simple dance steps (3-5 ideally) and show them to your child.

See if your child can do the same thing with all steps in the correct order.

Take turns making up the steps with your child so they can have a turn giving you the directions.

Sequence Photos or Toys

Use basic concepts such as small, medium, big or short, taller, tallest to arrange objects or pictures.

A great idea is to find 3 pictures of your child, one as a newborn, one where they are learning to crawl and one where they can walk.

Have your child put them in order from “first I was born”, “next I crawled” and “last I learned to walk”.

Are learn to code toys necessary in todays electronic world

School Aged Children

Story Sequencing

If your child is still learning to read you can do this with pictures.

By the age of 4-5 children should be able to sequence 4-6 events in a story.

You can make your own stories with photographs you have taken or download pictures to make your own story.

An example could be a child building a snowman.

Have 4-6 pictures depicting a child making a snowman.

Tell the story to your child and then mix up the pictures and ask them to retell it.

You can also talk about everyday routines.

For example, “tell me what you do to get ready for bed”.

This is why it is so important to narrate everything to your baby/toddler.

Once your child can read, cut out a few sentences of a story and have them put them in the correct order after hearing the story.

Or read a short story to your child (or let them read it if they are able to) and then ask them to retell the story in their own words.

Make a Snack

Ask your child what steps are needed to prepare a sandwich or bowl of cereal (something simple that they are capable of actually doing on their own).

For more sequencing activity ideas, head to Super Duper Inc.

Sequencing Is A Life Skill

The importance of sequencing skills in a child’s development should not be underestimated.

It’s one of those skills us adults often take for granted.

We sequence on auto pilot.

But without some of these “easy” sequencing skills in place at the right time of development it will be much harder to become proficient at the more complex sequencing skills that require critical thinking.

You can purchase pre-made sequencing activities like those shown below, but this isn’t necessary unless you are homeschooling or running a program for children or if your child has a known delay in sequencing ability.



8 Comments

  1. John

    Thank you Tanya,
    I have taken sequencing for granted but your article highlighted how important it is for both a lifeskill in so many ways and also in children’s development.
    We have a 3 year old toddler and I would love to play some of the games you suggest like dance steps and sequencing toys.  One thing we do often is arrange her blocks.  You know the ones, there are 8-10 blocks and place them on top of each other with the biggest one first and then smaller etc. Is that sequencing?
    Almost every baby tends to learn these.
    Thanks for your other ideas, I really appreciate them and so many game links you provided, this gives me so many ideas and choices. Thanks so much John

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      You’re welcome John!  Yes, arranging blocks in order of size is a form of sequencing and a great skill for little ones to practice through play!

      Reply
  2. Kevin And Jade

    I love this post!

    I have a 3-year old who is currently learning 3 different languages so sequencing is very important. That said, I don’t really do any formal sequencing activity with him so I’m very grateful for the recommendations you included in your post.

    Can I just ask – will these work regardless of language? He’s got English, Scots Gaelic and Filipino (and some German too sometimes). They obviously follow different rules and sequencing order.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks!  Glad you enjoyed it. I wouldn’t worry too much about sequencing in the languages with your son as that will most likely come naturally.  This article was more to discuss the value of a skill most adults take for granted or never even really think about.

      Reply
  3. Shannon

    Thank you for your very informative article. It really helped me to understand how important it is for a child to have these foundational skills. 

    I have a 5 year old son who is on the autism spectrum and I notice that he seems to learn these types of skills in a different way than my other children do. It is almost as if he tackles the more advanced tactics and works his way backwards through the simplified versions.

    Do you have any advice on what tools, toys or activities would be best to teach someone like him, who learns differently than the typical child, the foundational skills he will need? Thanks, I appreciate your input!

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Shannon,

      Thanks for your comment.  Children on the autism spectrum learn well with visuals.  

      For sequencing, I would suggest taking pictures of him doing a simple everyday routine such as getting ready for bed, in no more than 3 steps (First, middle, last).

      Print out the pictures and have him put the pictures in the correct order.  If he is speaking he can tell you in words as well.

      I always recommend the toys and resources from National Autism Resources (affiliate link) for children with Autism!  Is your son getting any kind of therapy (Speech, Occupational, ABA, etc.)?  A therapist would be the best person to talk to about activities for your son.

      Here is an article I wrote that you may find interesting.  It is all about the importance of pretend play for children with developmental disabilities.  I also discuss ways parents can encourage pretend play with their child.

      Reply
  4. Arif

    I really like your article.

    it would have come in handy 2-3 years ago when my girl was between 2 and 3. Some of the advice is really good. It looks like we, inadvertently, did a lot of sequencing with my eldest who is now one of the smartest children in her year.

    But my youngest is average at best which is frustrating because she has a lot of potential. We were able to spend time with our eldest without distraction. We find it difficult to spend enough time with the youngest due to other distractions including the eldest.

    My youngest is improving. Your article has given me some ideas. The one with the making up picture stories and mixing it up and then getting her to sequence it is a very good idea. It is the best idea for her age. I will definitely try that. Sequencing definitely works. The proof is with my eldest!

    Thank you again for the article.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks Arif! I wouldn’t get too worried about your younger daughter. All children develop at different rates. As long as she isn’t behind in a particular area there is lots of time for her to catch up. But working on sequencing skills can surely help!

      Another idea you can try is have her retell a trip or outing you went on with her. Ask her questions like “what did we do first, next, then, last?”

      Reply

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