Toddler Play: Matching Pairs Hide and Seek Game

Make a fun matching pairs hide and seek sensory game for toddlers, using real objects to be found in a sensory tub! Lots of hands-on excitement and great for simple problem solving, matching, counting and other early mathematical skills.Matching pairs hide and seek sensory tub game for toddlers!

With Bean now approaching 2, I thought it was time to start a new series on the blog celebrating the joy of Toddler Play! I love this age so much (roughly 18 months- 3 years) and play time together ¬†at this stage is very much about keeping it simple, exploring with their whole bodies and as much sensory enrichment as possible. Be sure to follow along the new Toddler Play series as we post things that we have been doing together each week. All ideas will be easy to set up, ready to get out at last minute’s notice or to fill a gap on a rainy afternoon.

A series of toddler play activities from The Imagination Tree

For this first post in the new series, we set up a hands-on, tactile version of the classic matching pairs game. Where possible with young children it is always better to present things in a real, multi-sensory way instead of just using pictures or flash card type games. We combined the matching element of the game with a small sensory tub full of dyed rice (click here to read this post about how we dye rice for sensory play.)

Matching pairs toddler play game with real objects

I found pairs of simple items from around the home that were large and safe to handle, but also presented a nice range of textures, colours and shapes for little fingers to explore. We looked at them together and I introduced the names of some of the objects for her to repeat, such as pone cones and sparkly pom poms, then I told her to close her eyes as I hid them under the rice. She thought this part was hilarious and we had to do it lots of times, with her taking turns too later on.

Toddler play hide and match objects game

Once they were hidden I suggested she dug her hands in and took a look for them all, naming each item as she pulled it out and then looking or its matching pair. She understood the game and I played along too, helping her set them together in groups of 2 on the table next to her. She was then able to start doing this herself, lining them up and matching them together.Matching pairs game with real objects in the sensory tub

Once we had played a few times and she had hidden the items for me to find, her bigger sisters wanted to play too! Then we simply returned the items and clicked the lid on the tub, storing it away for another game in the future. Simple, quick and engaging fun for toddler time together! [Side note: definitely keep this out and let them simply play and exlpore with the rice and introduce some scooping objects to increase play opportunities, if your child shows an extended interest.]Matching pairs sensory tub for toddlers

What they are learning while they play:

maths: matching, sorting, grouping, pairs, emergent counting

physical: exploring textures with fingers, scooping, grasping, pouring and tipping

literacy: new vocabulary, using prepositions to say where objects are hiding, using adjectives to describe colours, textures and shapes of objects

Cakie: 5.4

Pop: 3.10

Bean: 1.11

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  1. says

    Ooh, I shall be following this series with interest as my LO is 18 months. This looks like a great idea – I love the idea of using real objects rather than cards. I will file this away for when he is a little bit older.Thank you.

  2. says

    I love this idea! My little one is the same age as Bean so I really look forward to these posts. Mine actually likes to play Memory so I think a tactile version (& a treasure hunt!) will be lots of fun.

  3. says

    Love the pair matching game, i think both of my kids will enjoy it. Looking forward to other ideas. Thank you for your great posts we had so many fun afternoons with inspiration I got from your site.

  4. Adie says

    Ah…just the series I wanted, my toddler is 1.9 and whilst I love your blog I do find myself thinking “must do that in a year’s time”!