Matching is a skill that many take for granted. And, I hear from parents who want IEP goal suggestions or printable matching pictures to use with their kids. And not just the preschool kids either! Many older kids struggle with matching pictures too.
Matching is an essential skill for many reasons. First, a deficit in matching skills can indicate that memory or working memory skills are lagging. Matching also helps with sorting, another executive functioning skill.
We don’t (if we’re not teachers or professionals working with our kids) tend to think of matching as a memory skill, but it is. And memory is required for everything. If a child is going to learn to read, he/she has to memorize the sounds and grammar rules associated with each letter.
If a child is going to work on sequencing, then they have to have the memory and matching skills too.
Not all matching is finding two identical pictures and matching them up. It might be many different images and the child is asked to match all the red ones.
In PECS, we ask a child to match the PECS image with a real life request or activity.
In real life, we expect kids to “match” what is appropriate attire based on what kind of day is planned–both activities and weather.
Math requires matching. It’s great if a child can count 1-5. But can they visually show you what 2 of something looks like? Can they match (in their mind) what 1 is? Or 0?
Matching goes on all day, every day, all around us. And some kids have to be direct taught everything. Which is why starting with matching pictures is where many teachers and caregivers begin.
Matching and Language
Developing matching skills is essential to developing language. As a parent, we should not only be presenting activities or seat work to our kids, but developing the language around it too. You can make statements and ask questions such as:
- What else do you see around us that is red/big/noisy?
- You’re right! That is 2 cookies. Would you rather have 2 cookies or 0 cookies? Why?
- Name something else big/blue/quiet/soft.
- Questions about similarities and differences.
- Comparison questions and statements–why some things match, why they don’t.
- Think of a toy car and a real car–and all the questions and discussion points you can have around that.
- Match a book to a tv show to a toy to a t-shirt.
Printable Matching Pictures
There are lots of great places to get printable matching pictures.
One of my favorites is TeachersPayTeachers, because the stuff is created by and benefits teachers.
Another place for some free printable matching pictures is Evan Moor. They have a freebies section that changes often. I have seen them in there. Also check their sale section because you can get fantastic workbooks and other stuff for $1.
If you are looking for more sturdy matching pictures, like a game or activity, you can always find what you need on Amazon. Their bestselling matching picture activities are listed below. I love the Eric Carle one, because then we can also pair the book with the activity.
Matching Pictures for Older Kids
If your child is beyond the preschool or young child stage, and you still need to work on matching skills, they may think that most of the offerings are babyish.
But, that doesn’t mean that age appropriate options are not out there, they are. It may take more effort on the parent or teacher’s part, but here are some ideas.
- Cut pictures from a magazine that is of interest, such as a car magazine, guitar, Sports Illustrated or something like that. Ask friends, neighbors, libraries and newsstands if you can have their expired issues.
- Comic books or Graphic Novels
- Do a Google image search for the child’s preferred interests and print out the photos.
- Use Lego, sports balls in different colors and sizes, hats, hair bows or scrunchies, bottles of nail polish, shoes, or other items that interest the child.
- Go through family photo albums, catalogs that come in the mail, yearbooks, greeting cards…there is opportunity for matching all around us.
- Our games take the experience from the books to the next level as kids engage in hands-on learning activities that teach vocabulary, counting, shapes, and much more.
- Perfect for kids and adults on the go!
- Number of players: Any
- Package Dimensions: 2.032 L x 14.224 H x 9.398 W (centimeters)
- English (Publication Language)
- Access code for Golden Scholar Club free online gift
- 52 double-sided Alphabet Cards including 26 Uppercase Cards and 26 Lowercase Cards
- 3 Index Cards for easy reference
- Parent Card with more game ideas
- Colorful, kid-friendly illustrations
- Combine wooden magnets to recreate fun scenes on a game board
- Scenes include a day on the farm, backyard playtime, heading off to school, and busy day in town
- 2 double-sided scene cards, 4 double-sided suggestion picture cards, 119 wooden magnets, wooden storage/travel case with lid/game board
- Great for fine motor, matching, color recognition, and problem-solving skills
- Makes a great gift for preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, for hands-on, screen-free play
- 28 PIECES WITH REAL PHOTOS -- Beautiful, colorful, clear images are printed on one side of the wooden blocks to assist with animal identification and cognitive skills
- DESIGNED FOR YOUNG HANDS -- Promote fine motor skills with this “wild game"! These thick, chunky tiles are easy for small hands to grip, rotate and turn over
- SAFE FOR TODDLERS -- Coated with water-based lacquer, the heat printed images will last for years of playtime. The Beech plywood pieces are safe and smooth to touch
- GREAT FOR GAMEPLAY -- Play matching games, memory games and practice sorting skills by placing the animals into groups according to size, color or type!
- ASSIST EARLY DEVELOPMENT -- Improve your little one’s memory, critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they work to match the pairs. With 28 pieces, this game provides endless fine motor and hand-eye coordination practice too!
Matching and Reading
Matching skills are prerequisites for reading skills.
When we read, part of what we do involves matching. Children learn to match
shapes, patterns, letters and, finally, words.
Matching skills are necessary for kids to develop letter knowledge. That is, before a child can read, they have to know that a and A are the same letter. They match!
Matching and ABA
I would be remiss if I did not at least discuss matching skills and ABA. Having a child do matching skills, as seat work, is a very popular activity for those doing discrete trial work for ABA.
That is, you ask the child to match. If she does so successfully, you reward. If not, you do not. Yes, many have said that this makes ABA feel like dog training. I get it. Even if you are not intending to use ABA, you likely are–you probably are verbally praising the child for getting it correct and verbally correcting them if they are not.
To avoid this, do your matching practice in the child’s natural environment instead of seat work. Or, instead of telling the child that they are incorrect, instead ask them questions as to why they made that choice.
Their answers may surprise you! They may spot a matching characteristic that you did not see. This is also a callout to the adults to be specific in your ask. Instead of “show me which two items match” you may want to use instead “show me which two pictures are red.” Because if both pictures are laminated 3″ squares….they do indeed match!
Matching Pictures to Tangible Objects
Or, maybe for your child, using all ‘real’ items is more appropriate.
But, at some point we want our kids to match beyond pictures to the real item. In fact, for my son, he does not do well with pictures at all. We use almost all tangible items in his teaching. For example, he never cared about a picture of juice. But, we drained and cleaned a Capri Sun pouch, and that worked well instead of the PECS drawing.
I have a comprehensive list of toys that you can use just for this in the blog post linked below. It says ‘sensory toys’ but there is an entire section devoted to toys used in matching and language skills.
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