Matching Like Objects

By Activity Bank on Jul 17, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Charlotte Cushman and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

Learning to match and sort items such as laundry, silverware or coins is an important aspect of independent living. This hands-on activity teaches students to determine whether items are the same or different, develop classification skills and match familiar objects. Lessons include Independent Living and Social Skills.


  • Tray or other defined work surface
  • Assorted boxes or containers
  • Several sets of ten identical objects. The objects should be tactually dissimilar and preferably real objects from the child’s environment rather than plastic representations. Here are some suggestions:
    • Combs and bars of soap
    • Metal spoons and toothbrushes
    • Socks and cups
    • Keys and plastic forks
    • Bells and buttons


  • Present the student with two sets of objects that are similar in size and shape but tactually dissimilar. The items should be mixed together in a central tray with one sample item in the box on either side of the tray.
  • Have the student reach into the box on the left and identify the sample object. Then ask the student to reach into the box on the right.
  • When the student recognizes the sample objects in each box, ask her to pick up one item at a time from the central tray, identify it, and decide which box to place it in.
  • Help the student to pick up an item from the central box with one hand and check the sample boxes with the other hand to determine whether the items match.


  • Have the student label which items are the same and which are different. Keep in mind that “same,” “different,” “not the same” and “not different” may be four completely unrelated concepts to some students. You may therefore wish to present each concept separately and slowly introduce synonyms. “That’s right, the square is not the same as the circles. It’s different.” Vary the wording in order to broaden and reinforce concepts.
  • Try this activity on a magnetic board or a flannel board. For example, place a row of circles and one square on a magnetic board. Ask the student to pull off the one that does not belong. Follow up with a verbal model, e.g., “Good, you found the square. It doesn’t belong with the circles. It’s different.”
  • If the student is already able to match and sort objects, have her tell you which items are the same. “These are all circles. They’re all the same.”
  • For students with low vision, it may be helpful to present objects with sample boxes in front of the central box rather than next to it.
  • When students have mastered basic matching and sorting skills, try to vary the objects as well as the setup of sorting tasks so that students learn to generalize their skills.
  • As the student learns to do this activity, present objects which are more similar – forks and spoons, quarters and pennies.
  • For added cues, sorting boxes can be covered with different textures.
  • Give the student the tray of objects without placing one of each item in the sorting boxes. Let her determine what will go into each box.
  • After the student has learned to identify objects that are the same and different, have her find which letter is different in a row of print or braille.

Hint: Throughout the day, help the child to identify items as the same or different: “Jack, you and Diane are having the same snack. You’re both drinking apple juice.”