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.
- 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
- Ages 3+
- IMPROVE LANGUAGE SKILLS – The wonderfully bright photo illustrations and matching words in the game are a great way to increase your child’s vocabulary. Playing together encourages conversation and discussion of the various pictures, which is a great way to improve conversational skills.
- ENCOURAGE EARLY READING SKILLS – Basic reading skills provide an important foundation for literacy. Picture Word Bingo is a great way of introducing word recognition; by matching the picture to the word, the child forms a connection between the two and begins to understand the formation of the words. This is a great start to independent reading!
- BOOST SOCIAL INTERACTION – Picture Word Bingo can be played with 2 -4 players; your child can challenge a friend or the whole family can join in. This enables your child to practice their social skills such as co-operation, taking turns and dealing with competition and winning/losing. Social interaction through games is an excellent way for children to learn how to interact positively.
- INCREASE ATTENTION SPAN & FOCUS – Picture Word Bingo is a fantastic way of improving a child’s attention span. The child needs to focus to make sure they don’t miss out on a BINGO! The competitive edge helps to keep them motivated and focused, making improving these vital transferable skills a lot of fun.
- ENHANCE SELF-CONFIDENCE – Matching the pictures to the words provides a real boost to your child’s confidence about their growing literacy. Feeling more positive about their ability to recognize words can be the key to moving forward into more difficult tasks with a positive attitude. Games like Picture Word Bingo can really boost the self-belief that it takes to tackle independent reading.
- BUILD ON EARLY READING SKILLS – The Match It! First Words collection of puzzles teaches your child’s first words in an interactive way. By simply matching the cards together, children will learn to recognize the spelling of simple words, all aided by the pictures which help to reinforce the new word learned.
- ENCOURAGE CONFIDENCE IN LITERACY – The puzzles introduce simple spelling words to little learners. Learning to read can be a daunting process, but self-correcting puzzles, where the pieces will only fit if they are correct, can provide a boost of confidence. This can help any child to feel more positive and confident when approaching literacy tasks.
- INTRODUCE KEY PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS – These puzzles are an ideal way to help your child develop a basic understanding of how to solve simple problems, developing important skills that will help them as they progress on to more difficult tasks.
- IMPROVE MOTOR SKILLS – Thick, durable cardboard construction makes the products easy to grasp and use, and also is a great way of improving hand-eye coordination and encouraging the development of essential motor skills.
- INCREASE ATTENTION SPAN & FOCUS – Working towards matching each word to its appropriate picture provides plenty of motivation and this helps your child develop their concentration skills, teaching them the importance of focusing on the task to completion.
- 【Toddler Education】: The button art help develop your child’s hand-eye coordination and cognitive ability, and expand his imagination creating and designing unique patterns
- 【Easy Storage】: Comes with a drawstring BAG FOR STORING the buttons, it can prevent the pegs from scattering all over, and the pictures can be placed in the storage tray. Never lose any pieces!
- 【High Quality & Safe】: All pieces are made of safe premium quality ABS plastic, and the smooth edges of the pegs are especially designed to prevent little cuts
- 【Gift For Kids】: The colourful pictures and various shapes can attract the kids instantly, so that the Mosaic Pegboard will be a wonderful surprise as birthday ,Thanksgiving or Christmas gift
- 【More For Less】: Fansteck 12 various pictures, 46 pegs, 1 storage bag, 2 clips, 1 pegboard, 1 storage tray; 18-month Worry-free and friendly customer service
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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