Benefits of Object-Picture Matching

Matching objects to their corresponding pictures is a very common early childhood activity.  Although object-to-picture matching is widely accepted as an important basic skill, you may still be wondering what all the fuss is about!  Here is a summary of some of the benefits of object-picture matching activities for your little one.

Language and Cognition

Matching an object to a picture requires the understanding of the picture as a symbol, or representation, of the actual object.  The ability to understand symbolic representation is a crucial prerequisite to learning and using language!

Object-to-picture matching is a great way to build vocabulary in young children.  When the pictures and objects don’t match exactly, children have to use their knowledge of the distinctive features and/or function of the object in order to match them correctly.  For instance, it may be fairly simple for a child to match a small blue bowl to a picture of the exact same bowl, but if the bowl in the picture is large and red, the child will have to use reasoning (i.e. both items have the same basic shape and the same function) to realize that the object and picture go together. Recognizing distinctive features and functions of objects helps grow category knowledge, in turn creating deeper understanding of vocabulary concepts.

Early Literacy

When matching objects to pictures, your child is practicing visual discrimination skills, becoming familiar with one-dimensional print, and learning to connect real objects to print.  These are important pre-reading skills.


Matching objects to pictures also encourages one-to-one correspondence, which is a foundational math skill.

Tips for planning object-to-picture matching activities:

When planning object-to-picture matching activities, you can make them easier by finding pictures and objects that look very similar (i.e. a small blue bowl to a picture of a small blue bowl) or increase the difficulty by making the objects more diverse (i.e. small blue bowl to large red bowl).  Alternatively, you can up the ante by requiring the child to match several objects that are very similar except for one or two minor details, such as a set of plastic cows with different markings or bears of different sizes.  This version of the activity requires more attention to minor detail.

Start by introducing only a few object pairs at a time and then slowly increase the number of options you have out as the child gets more proficient with matching.

If you are trying to find pictures to match small manipulatives or toys that you own, you can often check retailers’ websites and pull exact photos or drawings of the items off the site.  Just be sure not to use them beyond working with your own child (don’t distribute them or charge money for them) so you don’t get in trouble for copyright violation!

I hope this information inspires you to try some object-to-picture matching activities with your own little ones! The pictures in this article are from our Goodnight Moon Vocabulary Activity– click on the text link to see other ways we used the picture symbols.


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  1. I LOVE this! I wanted to do some item-to-picture matching over the next couple of weeks in tot school but have been procrastinating on a lesson plan. This inspired me!

    • Oh good! I’m glad you found it useful. Sometimes it helps me to go back and refresh myself on why certain activities are beneficial, so I wanted to share with others, too!

  2. What a great post, I thought I knew why we did object to picture matching but I only knew the half of it. Thanks so much for filling in the gaps in my knowledge. I’m sharing this on TTG FB page.

    • Thank you! I always found that parents were more likely to follow through on activities if I took the time to fill them in on exactly why they were important. Sometimes I think we forget to do that enough in our fast-paced world!

  3. Our SLP told me to do this sort of activity with my lil guy often. I try but he’s not often excited about it. I like this explanation as to why it’s important. Thank you for posting.

    • Glad you found it useful. Have you tried doing the activities with objects that are highly motivating to him? My little guy will do just about any activity if it involves cars! Thanks for reading!

      • Yes cars!!! cars! cars! :-) and play dough these days. We have done this activity many times with Disney Cars. Lil guy will match up Lightning McQueen and Mater with out too much of a fuss but then trying to expand on the idea with other things does not often work. Recently, I was trying to get him to match up arctic animals from the Safari Toob to pictures I had printed…he wasn’t having it :-( but then a couple days later he did match them up to cartoon pictures in a book he has. I keep trying to stretch him though. We do have picture cards for food/drink items on our fridge. Therefore, I do think he understands pictures can represent actual items. He brings me the picture of the ‘waffle’ or ‘cup of milk” when he wants those :-)

        • It’s amazing what I can get Will to do using cars as an incentive! We love us some Mater round here!


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