Shape Matching

Use geometric gummed sticky shapes for dominoes, using one colour only. Or make matching pairs using Shirley Decorative shapes (obtainable from Philip and Tacey Ltd, the educational suppliers) or by combining various geometric shapes. Lotto boards and cards can be made with simple shapes. If each board has only four sections small children will at least complete one board before they have lost interest.

Real leaves can be used for a matching pairs game if they are picked just before the autumn, mounted on card, and covered immediately and closely with covering film. For older children one can use different sized leaves as the only matching element needs to be shape.

Texture Matching

Different fabrics and materials can be used to make large dominoes and Lotto boards. Felt shapes stuck on to card can be used for a pairing game, either with eyes shut or selected from behind a screen which prevents children seeing.

Shape Discrimination

Use sets consisting of pictures of the same basic object where each pair is just very slightly different. These can be bought reasonably cheaply but there are no sets simple enough or on large enough cards for the younger children who enjoy these game only if the material is not too complicated. Or try sets of cards in which each picture is cut in two and the two halves have to be found. These can be made progressively more difficult by reduc- ing the number of clues. Start with symmetrical symbols so that each half looks the same, then symbols symmetrical about an axis so that each half is a mirror image, then asymmetrical shapes where each half is quite different and the child has to be able to recognize each for what it is.

Pattern Sequence Cards

A further use for coloured self-adhesive paper shapes is to stick them on cards to form a linear pattern which children can then complete. Simple ones using the same shape and size in just two colours can lead through various stages until size, colour, shape and number are involved. The simplicity of the principle of such patterns is deceptive however. Most average five-year-olds will be hard put to follow more than a three-stage pattern or to use more than two attributes. Each complete sequence should be repeated at least twice and then started again before leaving space for the child to finish. If the cards are placed in a transparent wallet and the child’s contribution placed on top the extra shapes can be peeled off later and the same card used again. (Threading beads can be used in exactly the same way and some children prefer this.)

Size Matching

Self-adhesive circles in four different sizes in one colour can be used for dominoes. White circles on black card is very effective. Or sets of shapes can be cut in five different sizes. For young children, produce only three sizes which are obviously different. These are difficult to cut from card accurately; plain vinyl floor covering is more durable and easier to cut. Sets of buttons can often be bought in three different sizes. They can either be stuck on card or left loose in a tin and used with a sorting tray. Older children might be able to use these for a ‘no-looking’ game but only if the buttons are very different in size,

A great many of these sets are required to provide variety. Once a child has completed a matching set he is not likely to want to do it again. Producing a different set which follows exactly the same principle will reinforce the lessons learned but since it appears new to the child he is quite happy to carry out the same operation. Keeping material available but tidy can be a problem. A transparent plastic shoe hanger is useful since children can see what is there and are encouraged to put the material back in its proper place. A frequent change should be possible if extra material is kept in a store cupboard.

They are particularly valuable since there are some children who will happily play with these yet would never want to sit down and play with table toys.

Activities which Encourage Hand-Eye Coordination Some children develop this coordination quickly and efficiently and seem to need no encouragement or help, while some can be very slow and appear to be clumsy compared to their fellows. Others go through life being clumsy, being laughed at, even blamed for their apparently wilful stupidity and lack of care. There are often good’ medical’ reasons why a child might be like this but the really distressing aspect is that the slow child can be made slower by his constant failure and despondent by an unsympathetic attitude towards this characteristic. Apart from finding well-informed, skilled medical care (which is all too thin on the ground – most Gps will either tell a mother not to be so fussy or at most suggest having the child’s eyes tested), the adults who have care of children can help by producing attractive activities which will encourage this development.