visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals

Increase Your Child’s Visual Discrimination Skills (Object Matching)

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Montessori object-to-object matching for visual discrimination

“This is a penny, this is a quarter, this is a dime, and this is a nickel.” 

Being able to tell the difference between these coins just by looking at them is an example of visual discrimination.

My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Annie, recently has expressed interest in exploring with her pretend cash register and pretend coins from Learning Resources.

At first, the coins were all over the place and all mixed up. But after repeatedly matching them, sorting them, and counting them together, she can tell the coins apart and name them. 

visual discrimination, coins, matching, Montessori
matching coins

The penny is the easiest to distinguish because it’s the only one that’s copper-colored. But you really have to look at the size and detailed texture to tell the difference between the nickel, dime, and quarter, because all three are silver-colored.

Since Annie expressed interest in learning about different coins, their names, and how to tell them apart, I thought it would be an awesome idea to try the Montessori language activity, object-to-object matching. We matched North American Animals for this lesson.

I’ll share with you the object discrimination (matching) lesson from my teacher training, what we did in the classroom, and how it went with Annie, at home! 

In This Post

Why is visual discrimination important for young children?

According to

"Visual discrimination involves being able to see subtle differences in objects, including letters and numbers, to distinguish them from others. For example, when sorting coins one notices that nickels and dimes are the same color, but dimes are always smaller. Our visual discrimination skills allow us to see the differences in size and texture."

Visual Discrimination activities such as object-to-object matching help preschoolers with:

  • concentration and focus
  • order
  • problem-solving
  • making sense of the world around them
  • reading facial expressions and body language
  • noticing subtle differences and similarities in objects and pictures
  • seeing the differences between similar letters (b, d) and words (cat, cot)
  • preparation for writing and reading

Of course, there are many more types of activities you can do to help boost your child’s visual discrimination skills. For example, there are all types of matching cards, pictures and activity worksheets to choose from. But we’ll start with matching objects. 

Vocabulary development

This matching objects lesson also helps to boost your child’s vocabulary. Just like in the previous activity in the sequence, classified objects, you’re gathering objects for the lesson that are in the same category, for example, North American Animals.

With this matching activity, your child will learn the detailed and unique names for all of the North American Animals. The ideas for topics are endless so your child can learn new vocabulary words with each new lesson! 

visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals
two sets of North American Animals for matching

Why start with objects?

“The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling. ”

Before moving forward with matching pictures or cards, it’s best to start out with the hands-on concrete objects first with very young children.

Anytime you can use real or 3-D hands-on objects for your child to explore, the better. Exploring with concrete objects first will help your child to get a good grasp of what she’s learning about.

I talked about the concrete to the abstract in this in a previous blog post, Montessori 3-Part Cards and Language Development: First, Get Your Hands Dirty!

concrete to abstract visual chart

After trying this lesson a few times with your child with different types of 3-D objects, you can move on to using matching cards. 

Note: see below for “more ideas for matching objects” with stuff you have around the house.

The oral language lesson that comes right before matching objects is classified objects.

Then, the lessons that come after object matching include:

  • Object-to-picture matching
  • Picture-to-picture matching
  • Go-togethers (lock and key, sock and shoe, etc.)
  • Vocabulary Enrichment (3-part cards)
You can see the progression from concrete to the more abstract in the sequence of lessons.

How to do the object-to-object matching activity

What you will need

You’ll need a basket of pairs of objects that are in the same classified family. For instance: 

  • transportation vehicles 
  • animals (ocean animals, farm animals)
  • flowers
  • musical instruments

Safari Ltd. Toobs are excellent for matching object-to-object. There are several toob categories to choose from and the objects are of excellent quality. The little figures are very detailed and perfect for object discrimination or science activities.

Note: for matching objects, you would need to get two of the same toob to get identical pairs. 

I already had two North American Animal toobs that I purchased last year. We were excited to finally take them out of the closet to try matching objects! 

visual discrimination, north American animal toob
North American Animals from Safari Ltd. Toobs

The toob includes 12 North American animals:

  • mountain lion
  • raccoon
  • river otter
  • beaver
  • moose
  • bison
  • wolf
  • grizzly bear
  • pronghorn buck
  • elk
  • bighorn ram
  • mountain goat

Tip: You could also use these North American animals for Geography and Maps lessons. In the Montessori classroom, we match animals that go with the continents. Animals really call to young children!

Step by step: object-to-object matching lesson

visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals
Mix up the objects

Take all of the objects out of the basket onto your mat or table and mix them up. 

Ask your child to pick an object. Look at it carefully.

Ask your child to see if she can find the other one that is matching or “the same.” 

visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals
match the objects

Your child holds the pair of objects, one in each hand, and carefully analyzes them. 

If they’re a match, place the matching pair of objects in the top left corner.

visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals
continue to match all of the objects

Continue in this way, matching all of the object pairs, placing them in a long vertical line on the left side. 

Go back and name all of the object pairs, moving your hand from left to right for each pair.

name all of the objects again

Annie’s favorite North American animals are the mountain lion and the raccoon. She was also excited to see the river otter because we just saw an otter recently at the aquarium!

For very young children choose only about 8 matching pairs to keep their attention, and so that it’s not too challenging. 

For older preschoolers, you could use about 10-12 objects.

In the classroom on the language shelf, we always had a set of matching objects. We changed up the objects seasonally or based on what we were studying that month. 

Also, you can use the Montessori Three-Period Lesson to help your child learn the names of objects she doesn’t know.


Tip: choose topics for objects that your child loves or can relate to. This will help the lesson become more meaningful and fun. Also, since I observed that Annie really loves the mountain lion, I will look into creating a future lesson (matching cards) about wild cats.

visual discrimination, Montessori, object-to-object matching, vocabulary, North American Animals

Play the distance game

To make this lesson more challenging and fun you can play the distance game with the objects. I played this game with the kids in  the classroom with some of the kids.

It’s like a memory game. 

Place one object on the table. Look at the object and remember what it is.

Go to the mat with all the objects and see if you can remember which object was on the table. 

Pick up the matching object that’s on the mat and bring it to the table to see if you matched the correct object. 

Continue this game for as long as your child wishes to play.


More ideas for matching objects

Especially for little ones, ages two and up:

  • matching pairs of socks
  • matching pairs of shoes
  • matching kitchen or eating utensils
  • matching pairs of fruits or vegetables from the kitchen
  • matching figures, toys, or stuffed animals you that you have duplicates

Match objects from nature:

  • pine cones, acorns, seeds, leaves, pebbles, sticks
  • herbs from the garden
  • flowers from the garden
  • seashells
  • rocks, minerals, and crystals

Match other objects you have around the house:

  • art supplies (markers, crayons, paintbrushes)
  • coins
  • earrings 
  • buttons
  • beads
  • pasta
  • beans

Concluding thoughts about object-to-object matching

Annie had so much fun with matching objects. I found that for her age, it’s good to have a set of objects that have some challenging names with a few objects that look very similar. 

For example, when she matched the North American animals, I noticed that she would confuse and mismatch the pronghorn buck and bighorn ram. Those two objects are the same color and size and the only difference is the shape of their horns. 

I thought this was excellent practice for really focusing and problem-solving. By the time she got to the second “match”, she realized something wasn’t right and she went back to take a closer look. She figured it out! 

Have you tried matching objects with your kids? What are their favorite topics or types of animals? Leave a comment below! 

visual discrimination pin

More Montessori Language Resources

You can also download the lesson plans for:

Lesson 1: Beginning Oral Language Activities
Lesson 2: Picture Story (Dictation) Plus 24 photos and the lined paper we used!
Lesson 3: Naming – plus 140 labels for around the house
Lesson 4: Classified Objects – plus 8 insect photo cards
Lesson 5: Object Discrimination (Object Matching)

I will be adding all of the lesson plans as I write additional blog posts about Oral Language.

You can download them all below, by signing up for the Resources Library.

Montessori object-to-object matching for visual discrimination

object discrimination lesson mockup

12 thoughts on “Increase Your Child’s Visual Discrimination Skills (Object Matching)”

  1. I love how you break down learning and provide so many tips/steps/and resources to help parents and caregivers and educators here..
    I learn a lot as well

  2. I love starting out so simple and building on skills. The matching idea is a much easier way to introduce coins, which are SO tricky even for adults when traveling! I remember when I first got to Germany for study abroad in college, I was so slow with coins they would grab my hand and just take what they needed for me LOL!!!

  3. I’m still getting familiar with the Montessori principles and really appreciate the detail and explanations in this post! I do better when learning hands on, so it makes complete sense why kids would too!

  4. Love this! I started doing games like this with my toddler early on! It’s pretty amazing just how young children can begin to grasp these concepts and skills!

  5. We just whatever we have at home – coins, marbles with different colors, the poms poms for the dollar store, but I think the next level for my daughter would be to use these cool animals to play the matching game – they are so similar yet different, so it will definitely add a level of complexity to the game!

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