We are currently working on sorting and naming colors right now so Teddy Bear Counters are a current favorite toy in our house.
I like these little bears because they offer a lot of color options and kids can enjoy the fun shapes and feel to them. Our daughter is much more interested in sorting the bears than she is flat shapes or paper. Here are some fun ways to use these bears (or similar products) to encourage your preemie to sort colors.
1) Start with only 2 or 3 colors. Too many colors is confusing and difficult for your preemie to master. I like to start with yellow, red and blue because each color is very distinct and easy to tell the difference (as opposed to orange and red since they are very similar).
2) Use cups or a divided tray to help your preemie realize that the bears are to be separated rather than piled together. For my daughter I have found that a divided tray works best because she can't move it. With cups she often gets distracted because they can be knocked over or moved.
3) Place one bear of each color into the cup or tray section. Start out by doing the activity yourself. Pick up a yellow bear and say "yellow." Then point to the bear on the tray and the bear in your hand and say "see- same, same." You want your preemie to start understanding that some things are the same and some are different. This will help him/her figure out how to sort. Do one or two of each color yourself and then encourage your preemie to put the next bear in. If he/she does it right than do a lot of praise. If he/she gets it wrong just say - "No. Those aren't the same." and then help him/her put the bear in the correct spot.
4) Add more colors over time. As your preemie starts to master the basic idea of sorting, add more colors so that he/she can continue to build on the skill.
5) Be patient. Like with anything else, if your preemie isn't interested in the activity than put it away and save it for another time.