What to do with this activity?
Being able to match two things is a real achievement for a toddler and is great exercise for their brain. They will learn to recognise what items have in common - it could be shape, colour, function or meaning. Let them tell you how they work it out - good for their language development. They might like to match pictures with simple words - for instance, the word "cat" with a picture of a cat. Matching games can also be good as an early maths exercise.
You can play matching games with real things from around your home - for instance, two conkers, two plastic spoons, two toy bricks, toy animals or whatever you have to hand. Muddle them all up and see if your toddler can match them up again in pairs. Get ideas from this version of the game by Imagination Tree.
Have a look at this matching game from The Dad Lab on youtube. A child matches a picture of a number of dots with the appropriate number symbol. You can organise this game either with clothes pegs, or by making cards.
Why am I doing this?
Maths is more than working with numbers. It also consists of shape and space, patterns, measuring – things you do and come across in everyday life. When children begin to learn formal maths at school, they are building on a foundation of early numeracy learning from home. Even though they may not even be aware of it, parents and children engage in numeracy activity as part of their everyday lives.
How can I do more?
Always teach numbers in a natural way through everyday activities and play. Count steps on a stairs, food in your shopping trolley or cows in a field. Compare things when talking big or small, long or short, older or younger and faster or slower: “You carry the small box and I’ll take the big one.” Use the words – up and down, over and under, near or far, more or less when talking to your child. Talk about the shapes of everyday things. Ask your child what shapes they can see around the room they’re in.
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