Preschoolers love to sort, match and play with cards, pictures and collectible items like shells and buttons. While this kind of play is fun for children, they are also learning important skills in the process like memory, observing details and determining the difference between items by color, shape or texture. Homemade matching games can be played with parents, other children or independently to help your 3- to 5-year-old learn and practice these skills.
1. Sticker Tree
Draw or trace a tree shape on a large piece of paper or poster board. Cut it out and pin it up at your child's level. Have your child help you create leaves out of paper and attach them to the tree using tape or temporary adhesive so they can be picked off as you play the game. Your child may need help cutting out the tree and leaf shapes. Gather pairs of stickers and hide one behind each leaf with the back of the sticker still on. Now you and your preschooler can take turns selecting leaves to turn over and find matching pairs. When the game is finished, she can keep the stickers she paired.
2. Card Games
Gather some poster board or card stock, a pencil, a ruler and a pair of scissors. Draw an even number of squares sized for small hands. Draw pictures or find pictures on the internet and print them out using your computer. Have your child color the pictures before you cut them out. Laminate the cards if you wish. Lay the cards out face down. Let your child find matches or take turns with her. The person with the most pairs wins the game.
3. Themed Matching
Let your child choose a fun theme for the cards you plan to create such as farm animals, gardening, school, zoo animals, flowers or sea creatures. Keep the pictures simple and easy for a 3- to 5-year-old to recognize. Draw images that fit your chosen theme on the cards or find them on the internet and print them out. You can label with images with the name in text if you want to use the game to teach your child to read as well.
4. Toy Hunting
This matching game will take your child on an adventure through the house as she hunts for her favorite treasures. Gather some of her toys. Select ones that can be categorized and paired easily such as dolls, cars, wooden blocks and foam or magnetic numbers and letters. Hide them in clever places around your home. You might hide one under a blanket or bed and another one in a closet or cupboard. Make it challenging, but not so difficult that she never finds them. Provide clues to help her through the game. For example, "It's somewhere in the living room." Clap and cheer when she finds a toy.
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