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Matching Game

Sweet Pea is 29 months old.



  • 6-12 pairs of matching picture cards.  ( I found a cute little Nemo Matching Game in Target’s Dollar Spot, but obviously you could play this with any Memory card game set or even make your own.)


  • Go through your cards and find 3 or 4 matching pairs.  Set the rest aside.
  • Mix up the 3 or 4 pairs of cards and lay them all FACE UP on the floor or a table.
  • Tell your tot that you are going to play a game and that you are going to take turns finding matching pairs of cards.
  • Have your tot sit near you.  Pick up one card and describe the picture on it  (i.e. “Oh, look this card shows a pink octopus named Pearl.”)
  • Hold the card in one hand and then move it over all the other cards as you look for a match.  Talk out loud as you compare each card.  (i.e. “Hmm… This card is a yellow fish.  It doesn’t match.  No… that’s not an octopus either.”)
  • When you finally get to the matching card, act excited and say something like, “Oh here it is!  This is the matching pink octopus!”
  • Pick up the matching card and set the pair of cards next to you.  Say, “I found my pair of matching cards.  I’ll put this pair right here.  Now it is your turn to find a pair.”
  • Tell your child to pick up one card.  Ask them what is on the card.  Help them to describe it if necessary.
  • Next tell your tot to search through the remaining cards to find a match just like you did.  Describe some of the cards that are on the ground until you get to the right one.  You may have to actually find the match for them the first couple of times.


  • Repeat until all of the cards have mates.
  • When you are done, you can count the number of pairs that you each have.
  • Show your tot how to mix the cards up and then play again.
  • When your tot understands the concept of matching, start adding more pairs of cards back into to the game.


Observations: Every time Sweet Pea picked up a card, I found myself holding my breath while she searched for the match.  It was always amazing to watch her find a matching pair on her own.  🙂  She likes this game a lot and we have played it many times now.  Even Daddy has gotten in on the fun.

We are huge game players around here, so I was really excited by this activity. (Apparently it doesn’t take much.)   I think this is the first real “game” that Sweet Pea has been able to play.


Notes from the Trenches: Note that the name of this activity is not called “Memory” or “Concentration”, which is what I originally tried to play with Sweet Pea.  I put all the cards face down and proceeded to instruct her on flipping random cards over and memorizing where they were  and then trying to use her memory to make a pair.   She was totally lost and on the verge of a meltdown when it dawned on me that “Memory” was a much more complicated game than I actually had originally given it credit for.   What was I thinking?  We had already given up when I noticed a instruction card that came with the set.  It explained that beginners should play the game with the cards face up.   Ahhh.. Yes.  That would help.

Sweet Pea also had trouble keeping her matched pairs separate from the rest of the cards on the floor.  I think next time I might get a couple of  little baskets for us to put our matches in.

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal – if you make your own cards.)

4 comments to Matching Game

  • We’ve used memory cards for matching up like this, too! I like the idea of taking turns – we haven’t done that, and I’ve noticed that when I play games with Esme now, she never likes to wait her turn.

    We’ve just started doing the memory game (with cards face down) – she does really well with the computer version of this (maybe because it enforces turning the cards back over after they’ve been viewed), but has a harder time with actual cards, and does NOT like taking turns with it.

  • I like how you verbalize your thinking process as you find a match. I save frozen juice concentrate lids, wash them, and then put stickers on them to create match games. Anything from animals, to pumpkins, to superheros. They are very durable and easy for little hands to manipulate.

  • We tried memory this week too. I only used two sets of matching cards and it was still a bit frustrating for Turbo. We finished our time off with matching too. I like the basket idea to put the matches!

  • […]  If you have never played a matching game with your tot, you should try a beginner style game of matching before you add the “memory” component that is required for this […]

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