At some point in your infant or toddler’s life, you might notice his/her strong urge to match everything.

I remember the first time I noticed it – my son was insisting on bringing his starfish toy to the car. I couldn’t understand why, but hey, I choose my battles – so I just let him.

I’m glad I did because when we got to the car, he got his book and apparently, there’s a page with a starfish, and he just matched them.

There are many ways to do matching work for your child – you can do picture to object, or color matching, or color and object, etc. Today, we will focus on object-to-object matching. This is one of the earliest matching activities you can do. And, like my other posts, before you buy something specifically for this activity, I encourage you to look around your home and you will probably find a lot of possible items, much more than you expect.

For the samples I’m about to share, I only worked with what I have so I did not spend anything. You don’t need to use the exact things, but my challenge is for you to also do this activity for little or no cost.

Objective: do matching work – this pre-reading work enhances a child’s identification and investigation skills, promotes critical thinking, and answers a child’s certain schemas and sensitive periods.

What You Need: identical objects (or pairs) + something to define space such as a tray with divisions, or a rug with paper divisions

Here are some things I came up with:

1. Color Matching Work – I feel this category would be the easiest. It’s best for children who are in that stage where they just love to match colors. In this activity, there’s often a very clear isolation of stimulus: the items are essentially the same, but they differ in color.

SAMPLES: plain socks and pencils

ALTERNATIVES: pins, markers, pens, balls, play-doh covers, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, straws, candles, dyed cotton buds, plastic bottle covers, poker chips, colored paper, shaped and dried clay

Later on, you can move to gradation work – one color, but different shades. You can use paint cards (free in hardware stores) for this, or you can print (easy search: pantone + color [ex: blue]) if you don’t have access to paint cards. Click HERE to see what I did.

Although probably different in shapes, you can also work with the blocks you have at home. I think they’re still relatively easy to sort and match.

2. In this next stage, the colors are the same, and the items fall in one cat gory, but each pair is different from the others. This stage needs a more careful differentiation.

SAMPLES: wooden fruits, miniatures
ALTERNATIVES: real food (fruits or vegetables), real plants (leaves or flowers), miniature toys you already have, identical magnets or keychains, art supplies (paint/ chalk/ crayons/ etc), school and/or office supplies

3. In #2, I worked with a certain category (ex: fruits) in the same color. You can also work with a category in different colors or designs.

The easiest to find would be memory game cards (which we all probably have). Memory game cards often come in a certain category (vehicles/ animals/ landmarks/ etc), so you can choose a few for this activity. Tip: choose the category your child is most interested in!

Note: Memory game cards are very affordable. Dollar stores often carry some (usually real life photos, woohoo!) and locally, National Bookstore or even Toy Kingdom/ Toys R Us often carry some.

4. This one is tougher than the first three – very similar items with very slight differences. This requires lots of investigation to find the perfect match.

I personally love this HABA game, but there are too many socks for my toddler (or even for me, haha). So I love how I can found use for these beautifully-designed pieces (in a reduced number) so we can practice the art of scrutinizing.

You can also checkout the socks you have at home. Or perhaps you can print similar paintings (think Claude Monet’s water lilies series) on cardstock. I encourage you to also explore similar flowers, herbs, or leaves you might have in your area.

5. This is somehow a different kind of matching – because while it’s very easy, it requires the child’s knowledge of the pairs or how they work.

My son loves arranging these tiny footwear (keychains and magnets). It’s very easy for him to identify where each belongs, but the challenge is arranging them properly (left pair on the left, right pair on the right).

You can work with real shoes – your child’s baby shoes perhaps?

AND, last but not the least — UTENSILS! – you definitely have this at home! Very easy to prepare and a fun pairing activity for your child! If you have different kinds of spoon and fork pairs, you can work with them, too.

That’s it for now. I hope this post helps you think of your own matching work. Would love to hear your suggestions or what you’ve already done, too!

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