Similarities and differences
Key experiences for babies and toddlers-Object exploration
Help babies and toddlers identify similarities and differences among the objects that surround them. This key experience involves observing and discovering similarities and differences in terms of length and size as well as searching for identical pictures or illustrations.
Similarities and differences with very young children
Introduce babies to the concepts of "same" and "different". These concepts are new for them. Provide lots of material they can safely explore to understand similarities and differences.
Around the age of two years old, toddlers begin to demonstrate an interest for things that are "the same". You can begin to go beyond a simple introduction of the concept. Encourage them to search for things that are the "same" and things that are "different".
The activities suggested within this theme will give children the chance to explore the key experience-Similarities and differences. I have divided the activities in the following categories: length, size, color, and identical objects.
Differences in length
Manipulating short and long items
Cut Christmas garlands so that you have several pieces of different lengths. Let children manipulate them (supervision required). Help children notice and name the different lengths by, for example, saying, "This piece is short and this one is long." If you wish, play music. Variation: Use scarves or streamers instead of garlands.
Craft with strips of paper
Cut several strips of paper, cardboard, or felt, making sure you have several different lengths. Invite children to stick them on a large piece of adhesive paper. As children work, point to shorter pieces, longer pieces, and identify pieces that are the same length.
My hands and feet
Have fun comparing the length of children's hands and feet. Show them how your hands are longer than theirs. Look for similarities in terms of length and size. Variation: You may also trace the contour of each child's hands and feet on a large piece of paper or make prints by applying paint to their hands and feet before pressing them on the paper. Display the end result on a wall.
Serve spaghetti for lunch. Cut the pasta so children have pieces of different lengths in their plate or bowl. Encourage children to explore the contents of their plate and identify similarities and differences in terms of length.
Small steps, giant steps
Encourage children to take tiny steps like a mouse and giant steps like an elephant. Older toddlers can walk in the sand or snow. They will enjoy observing the tracks they leave behind and comparing them.
Differences in size
Balls of all sizes
Provide several balls of different sizes and let children manipulate them. Discuss the differences in size with children. Have fun tossing the balls in baskets or boxes or, if you prefer, through hula hoops hung from the ceiling. In general, balls can safely be manipulated by young children. This will give them the opportunity to discover different circumferences.
Box with holes
You will need a box with a lid. Cut several holes out of the sides of the box. Set several balls on the floor (different sizes). Include some balls that are too big to fit through the holes. Through trial and error, children will learn to use their senses to measure. Some children will measure the balls with their eyes while others will explore them with their mouth. Variation: You can also provide several balls that are all the same size, but cut holes of different sizes out of the box.
Craft, my family
Cut several pictures of people or characters out of magazines, flyers, or catalogues, making sure you have people of different sizes to represent family members. Cut a house shape out of cardboard and, with your group, glue the cut items on the house. Note that sometimes mothers can be taller than fathers.
Collect several blocks in different sizes: small wooden blocks, medium-sized Duplo blocks, and cardboard boxes to represent large blocks. Let babies and toddlers manipulate the blocks. Help them identify similarities and differences.
This activity is in fact a variation of the family craft above. Cut several fish shapes out of construction paper. Encourage babies and toddlers to color them before gluing them on a large piece of blue cardboard. Identify similarities and differences in terms of size.
Contrasting colors: a visual difference
Very young children will enjoy manipulating objects with contrasting colors such as black and white items or red and white items. Create mobiles with contrasting colors, offer homemade felt stuffed animals with contrasting colors, or explore picture books with contrasting colors.
Something doesn't fit
Select a day and ask parents to dress their child with clothing of a specific color, white for example. Wear a sweater of a contrasting color (red or black). Observe children's reaction. Older toddlers will notice the difference. Once they have identified the difference, put a white sweater on so you are all dressed in the same color (similarity).
Show older toddlers how they can dip pieces of string in paint and then drag them on paper to paint. Use contrasting paint colors. Help children notice the different lengths of the marks left on the paper. Look for similarities and differences.
Fill a large container with a single color of feathers. Add one feather of a contrasting color and observe children's reaction. Discuss this difference.
During diaper changes, press a sticker on your cheek. Act as if it isn't there until the child touches your cheek or mentions it (depending on age). Act surprised and congratulate the child for noticing the difference.
Lunch time differences
At lunch time, hang a plate on a wall. Help children notice it. At snack time, stick eyes on the plate. Encourage babies and toddlers to notice how the plate is different. The next day, add a nose, a mouth, and hair. Give children the chance to notice each change before adding something else.
Searching for a difference
Show toddlers how they can search for an obvious difference between two illustrations. Take a picture of yourself. Print it. Take another picture of yourself in the same position, but with an accessory (large hat for example). Print this second picture too. The difference must be easy to find. Invite children to identify it.
They are identical
Adapted lotto game
Use a lotto game to provide children with the opportunity to find matching illustrations. To make this activity easier for little ones, use very few identical illustrations to begin with and select illustrations that are quite big. You can, for example, use cut gift bags. Laminate them to create a simple oversized lotto game.
Interest for identical things
Around the age of two and a half years old, children develop an interest for things that are identical. For example, when they see another child wearing a sweater like theirs, they will say, "The same!" Use situations like these to explore similarities and differences.
Use felt to make pairs of identical finger puppets. At lunch time, slide a finger puppet over each child's spoon. Encourage children to recognize which child has the same finger puppet as them.
Big and small association game
Print several identical illustrations. The only difference: one illustration must be small whereas the other one must be big. Help toddlers find matching illustrations (example: a small bear with a big bear).
Early childhood educator