Unlocking the Power of Sequencing: Strategies for Teaching Children

Posted by Leah Schwed on

How to Teach Your Child Sequencing Skills

Sequencing is a foundational skill that enables children to understand how to order things. Getting to grips with sequences is a key development milestone, allowing children to handle numbers, letter forming, story comprehension, and more.


Fortunately, the human brain naturally observes patterns and sequences. This means we can teach sequencing skills from an early age. Giving children the concepts and language to talk about sequences also allows them to build further skills that boosts development.


You can begin teaching your child sequence skills from 12 months, preparing them for future skill development. To get started, take a look at our guide on child sequencing below.

What is sequencing?

Simply put, sequencing is the act of arranging thoughts, language, activities, and information into a logical order.


Specifically, the most basic concepts involved are first, next, and last.


For example, young children might begin to observe that their lunch first begins with washing their hands, next comes eating, and last is cleaning up.


We can also observe sequences in stories such as fairy tales. First, the princess is locked in the tower, next she escapes, and last, she lives happily ever after.


Sequencing language gives children the language and concepts to talk and think about ordering things. Without formal sequencing skills, kids can struggle to make sense of the world and fall behind in language and comprehension.


Teaching to sequence involves regularly vocalizing and giving examples of sequences. After some practice, children are soon able to identify sequences for themselves and begin forming more complex thoughts.

Why is sequencing important?

Sequencing, then, is an important stage in cognitive development and indicates a child is able to predict patterns in the world and place things in a logical order.


This is important as sequencing requires strong attention, observation, memory recall, and organizational skills. Being able to sequence, then, is a developmental milestone allowing further skills to develop.


Specifically, it can benefit the following child development skills:


Communication: sequencing teaches children how to arrange their thoughts and ideas into a logical order for better communication. Without sequences, sentences can be disjointed and illogical.


Routine: children thrive off routine and sequencing can help children understand the logic behind daily schedules. Sequencing can help children identify their routines and prepare them for school in later childhood.


Comprehension: when listening to someone or being read a story, sequencing helps children to follow along. Being able to predict and make sense of unfolding events means their comprehension is greatly increased.


Problem-solving skills: throughout their life, your child will encounter unfamiliar problems and information they may not understand. Sequencing teaches them that events tend to follow a logical order, helping them to solve problems easier.

How to teach your child sequencing:

Teaching your child about sequencing is fun and easy to do. Try some of the following sequencing tips to get started:

1.   Ask “what comes next?”

Sequencing should ideally begin with the concept of “next.” This is because it is quite a simple, logical concept with children 12 months and older already becoming familiar with cause and effect.


The idea of something being “next” can be taught in lots of different ways. Try starting with some blocks, placing one on top of another, and asking your child “what comes next?” Encourage your child to discover for themselves the pattern of placing blocks on top of one another.


Alternatively, lay your child’s toys out in size order and ask them what’s the smallest and biggest. Practice “what comes next?” in all walks of life. When getting your child dressed, ask them about the order of their clothes; “what comes after socks?” for example.

2.   Ask sequence questions

As your child’s language skills develop, move on to other types of sequence questions. These will help formalize sequence language and develop the concepts necessary to think about the past, present, and future.


Try the following questions:


  • What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
  • What happens after bedtime?
  • Then, what happened?
  • Can you eat your food before washing your hands?
  • What’s next, after playing with our toys?


As these examples should show, teaching sequencing can become a regular part of daily life for preschoolers. Integrating learning in this way is beneficial for learning, giving meaning and context to the concepts.

3.   Introduce a sequence schedule

Another way to bring sequencing to life for kids is to use a sequence schedule. This involves creating a timeline of activities using a whiteboard to draw activities in order, or using removable images stuck to a board.


Each day, sit with your child and draw/arrange images to indicate some of your days activities.


For example, your schedule could start some finger painting, then eat some lunch, after go for a walk in the park, and lastly have a nap.


Allow your child to remove the image or cross it off once it’s done to reinforce the idea of temporal order.

4.   Make a sandwich

Sequencing goes hand in hand with daily activities. Try making a sandwich with your toddler to teach them the importance of doing things in a logical order.


As you make the sandwich, explain what you’re doing and why using sequence language whenever possible.


Tell your child that you will start by taking some bread because these hold the sandwich together on the outside. Next, we butter our bread and choose a filling. After using our filling we put it back in the fridge, etc.


As you’re making the sandwich, ask your child what they think would happen if you did things out of logical order. For example, “what do you think would happen if I didn’t get the beard first?”

5.   Use storytelling sequence cards

One of the most effective ways to develop sequencing concepts in children is to use sequence cards such as Spark Cards.


These use bright and colorful images to tell stories breaking down events into smaller activities that are easy to follow. Children observe the importance of order and sequence and decks can be used in a variety of ways.


For younger children, parents can use sequence cards to tell a story, asking children questions about what they think happens next.


As children become more proficient with sequencing, decks can be shuffled with children tasked to reorder cards into the correct sequence.


Sequence cards, then, encourage children to discuss sequences giving them the opportunity to think about orders.

6.   Use song, dance, and storytelling

Traditional children’s activities are full of sequencing.


Songs such as Old McDonald’s Farm, for example, use repetitive sequencing with animals listed in a predictable order. Practice sequencing by learning such songs and then missing out words and animal sounds for your child to complete.


Dances such as Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes use a top-to-bottom sequence that subtly indicates a sensible order of events. You can demonstrate why certain orders are better than others by shuffling up the order of body parts in the song.


Story sequencing involves simply reading stories to your child. Traditional children’s stories such as The Three Little Pigs are great sequencing examples. If the story happened in any other order, stories like Goldilocks would not make sense.


Ask your child “what if” questions to accentuate the importance of order. For example, “what do you think would happen if the three pigs all build brick houses?” These questions give your child the chance to see for themselves how stories hinge on events happening in the right order.


Sequencing is a vital, foundational ability that children need to build further skills. It can be taught from an early age in a variety of fun, engaging ways. Asking sequence questions, using song, dance, and stories, as well as activities such as using sequence cards , are the best ways to teach children.


Spark Sequence Set


Spark Junior Sequence Set