Matching as the Foundation

Matching as the Foundation
While we play, we can support our toddlers in the incredible work they are doing to understand the world and their place in it. A concept that will support them as they learn, is the concept of “a match”.
Learning what a “match” is and honing the ability to create matches lays the foundation for reading, writing, and math work. That may not be everything, but the ability to match does reach nearly all academic areas. Here’s why: without the concept of a “match,” your child can’t match a sound with the symbol that makes that sound, nor can they match a numeral with the amount. It can be a long journey to get to the kind of matching described above, and it starts with your toddler’s ability to match objects that are exactly the same.  

Make 3D matching work

Take a look through your toys and through the objects in your home and see if you can find some objects that are exact replicas. To start, pick about 3 pairs of objects and place them in a basket on the toy shelf. Take care to pick items that are the exact same color and size.  Some ideas are socks, toddler utensils, blocks, pacifiers, cups or tiles from games.  Of course, make sure the items are not choking hazards.  Avoid putting food in the matching basket - if your toddler eats one then there is no match! Keep this work engaging by changing the “matches” inside the basket every week or so. 


Model matching

  • Sit next to your child and take the basket of matching work off the shelf. Investigate the toys that you are planning to match. 


  • Pick up one object and really deeply investigate it - turn it over in your hands and trace it with your finger. For your verbal toddlers you can add short phrases “Curved here, straight here, longer…”. Put it down away from the other pieces in the basket.


  • Show you are looking at the remaining pieces by holding your finger over each one.


  • Find the one that matches, pick it up and investigate it deeply, place it right next to the first one you picked up. Make sure the two items are placed in the same orientation.  Say “These match!” while pointing to them.


  • Repeat, make sure you pick some out that don’t match and after investigating and comparing say “No, these don’t match.”  

Do not be discouraged if your child seems to not be paying attention to you. They may not be interested in trying it themselves. Your little one is absorbing this information even if it doesn’t look like it and will start trying it themselves when they are ready. They may wait until you are busy doing something else or they may want you to watch when they are ready to try. 


Resist the urge to correct

If they are matching incorrectly you may feel the deep urge to correct them - resist that urge! It is counter-intuitive, but being corrected can discourage little ones. Continue to model matching correctly at least a few times a week and most children will self-correct themselves.  Do not fret if they don’t self-correct at this age. Just keep introducing this idea.


Extend the lesson

Another great way to reinforce the concept of matching is to casually mention that things match as you encounter them.  For example, as your child is eating those yummy toddler snacks, if two or more are exact duplicates, hold them up and say “These match!”  You may find your little one noticing matches all over the place.  



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