Matching Games Galore
Anything can be made into a matching game. Just look around your house. Do you have two forks? Two noodles? The point is, you don't have to go out and buy anything to make a matching game.
In matching, the brain is being wired in both pre-math and pre-reading ways to notice what's alike and what's different. For example, how does a child learn to differentiate between an "a" and a "d"? They need to see all the parts of something before they decide if they are the same or different.
So, starting when children are toddlers, begin to simply notice and name the difference in things. Big rock, small rock. Two different leaves. You can mention similarities as well. Then point out the differences. Two different balls. Mention size, color, etc. This is the first step. Just notice and point out things that are the same and different in everyday life.
When the child is able to pick up a little file card and look at pictures, then they will be able to do these matching games:
(1) Picture Matching Games
Sales catalogues, magazines, address labels all come with little pictures. Cereal boxes, diaper containers. Any grocery box with a picture can be used. Big pictures are best for toddlers. When you can have two of the same picture, you can play the game.
For 2 year olds -- 2 pairs to match (4 cards)
For 3 year olds -- 3 pairs to match (6 cards)
For 4 year olds -- 2 pairs to match (8 cards)
Once they've gotten used to these, add in an extra pair. And so on.
So you've cut out the big pictures. If they're flemsy, paste them on cardboard. Mix them up, spread them on the floor or table, then look for two that match. When you find a match, get very excited with the child. Use the words, "The same!" or "Alike!"
If they choose one that is different, say, "Let's see..." then hold the two up next to each other and compare the details together.
Key to remember: If a child has success early, they often like the game. We want it to be fun and successful.
Make sure the pictures are very different for littles. Progress to more subtle differences as they age. For example, for 2 year olds, pick things like trucks and balls, or dogs and babies -- clearly different. For 4 year olds, you could use two different pairs of pictures of babies.
There are two things to remember when progressing a child to the next level in the matching game:
- Think about the pictures' similarities increasing.
- Think about the number of pairs increasing.
If you wonder if the pictures are two similar, try it out first on an older child. Use these games all the way to 7 years old. Or use them when you are having an older and younger child playing together, with the older one pointing out the differences to the younger. (This will also help reinforce observation skills for the older child.)
(2) Texture Matching Games
The key when picking out samples for your texture matching games is that they should look and feel the same. You could get your samples from worn out socks, swatches of fabric (ask a friend who quilts or sews). You could get remnants from a fabric store, or host a scrap exchange. Other material besides fabric that could be used in this game is: sand paper, bubble wrap, mylar balloon, scraps of vinyl/lenolium flooring, old shower curtains, curtain, etc.
You need just enough material for the child to feel the texture.
Take your square pairs and place them in a bag. When the child is ready to play, spread them out on a tray, and look for the ones that feel similar. Pick them up, feel them -- with your fingers, cheek, etc. Ask, "Does it feel the same?"
At around 4 years old, once the child has played the game a few times, try putting a blindfold on them. Get the child to go by touch only. (It's difficult for a 4 year old not to peek. So try not to notice if they do.)
This type of texture game is working on different pathways to the brain, wiring it in visual, tactile, smell, and sound ways. This helps children with learning difficulties before they've even been detected.
(3) Smelling Matching Game: Smelling Jars
Use small plastic containers, baby food jars -- any small container will do. Put a toothpick drop of any food flavoring or oil on a piece of cotton in the jars. Make two of each. Liquids help make this by smell only. You can use powders, though this may make them sneeze. And you don't want too many strong or yucky smells -- anything pereived as unpleasant. They will want to stop the game. Stick to pleasant smells.
(4) Sound Matching Game: "Drumroll... Name that Sound!"
Collect sounds. Record traffic, a cat's meow, a dog's bark, someone sneezing, a baby crying, etc. Find sounds that are familiar to the child. Play the sound and ask if they can make that sound. Then ask if they can name the sound.
Copying the sound themselves helps them get ready for reading because every letter has a distinct sound they'll need to recognize and produce.
Have fun. Ham it up! Doing this with children (being fun and silly) comes easier than with adults. Don't be afraid to try.
(5) Other Matching Games
Take an empty egg carton or ice cream tray and a bowl of colored pom-poms. (You'll be picking out two of each type that are similar in size and color.) You'll need something to pick up the pom-poms with: small tongs, tweezers, clothes pin. The object is to take the pom-poms out of the bowl and sort them in a tray by color. Take them out one at a time and put them into pairs. Ask them, "Is it the same, or different?" If the same, put it next to its partner. This is sorting and using fine motor skills.
In the fall, try to match leaves: by color alone, by shape alone, big acorn vs little acorn and find a "hat" that fits each one. Look at your own flowers. Pick and match.
Over all, use your own creativity to make matching pairs.