Preschoolers often hear how big they are getting from their parents, but then they want to reach their favorite cup in the cupboard and they hear, "You're too small." This idea of size can be extremely confusing for young children -- am I big or am I small, and what does it all mean? Since size is relative, the best way to teach preschoolers about big and small is to help them compare and describe the things they see around them.
Everybody can use a hand with their laundry, so put your preschooler to work helping you to sort the clean laundry as you fold. Ask him to put all of the big, grown-up socks in one pile, and the small, kid socks in another. Place a small shirt on top of a big one so they are easy to compare, and ask which one is bigger. Make sure you also ask which is smaller, so that your child is hearing both vocabulary words as he compares. Other pieces of clothing, such as pants and shorts, can also help you introduce the concept of longer and shorter. With this activity, you will get your household chores done and he will learn at the same time!
The kitchen is the perfect place to find objects of all sizes, so while you are fixing dinner, gather up some utensils for your preschooler to explore. Set out a variety of mixing bowls and ask your child to put them in order from biggest to smallest. Or give her the set of measuring cups and ask her to nest the cups in the correct order. Show your child several spoons, including a teaspoon, tablespoon, and large serving spoon. Discuss which one is smallest and which one is largest. You could even have your child help with emptying the dishwasher and have her sort the dishes and silverware by size.
One of the best stories for comparing sizes is "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." To make your rendition even better than a story book, gather up three different sized teddy bears and a doll as props. You could even add a small, medium and large bowl for the porridge and blankets for beds to go along with your storytelling. As you tell the story, emphasize how Papa Bear is so big, Mama Bear is a bit smaller and Baby Bear is the smallest of all. Have your child match the bears to each of the props you use as you tell the story. After hearing the story several times, your preschooler may even want to tell it back to you.
Nesting and Stacking Blocks
Preschoolers just love to build towers and then knock them down, so you can capitalize on that fascination by using a set of nesting blocks -- blocks that are various sizes and are made to fit inside each other -- to help your child build a tower. Begin by setting out all of the blocks so your child can see each one, and ask him which one is the biggest of all. Once you have set that block as the base of the tower, ask which remaining block is the biggest and then set it on top of the bigger one. Continue finding the biggest block that is left in the pile and building the tower until you have reached the smallest block. Then let your preschooler do what he has been dying to do -- knock it down! You can have your child help clean up by nesting the blocks inside each other using the same process as earlier. Find the biggest block first, and continue finding the biggest remaining block.