Although commercial matching games for preschoolers are readily available from toy stores, you can make many kinds of matching games yourself. Most matching games for preschoolers follow the same pattern; you simply place the cards face down in a grid and let children take turns looking for matches by turning over two cards at a time. They keep matching cards they find and lose their turn when they fail to make a match.
A reading-readiness matching game involves kids matching letters. Although you can create a game by simply printing out letters in a large font and cutting these into cards, you can also vary the game using cutouts. Find large, colorful letters in a magazine to clip out and glue to squares of card stock; this way the letters will be different sizes and colors and, therefore, offer a bit more of a challenge. Children might enjoy helping you create the game. You can also make a letter-matching game by purchasing two sets of alphabet flash cards. Once kids know their letters, they might like playing the Clifford on-line matching game from Scholastic.
Education.com suggests a family-photo matching game. You simply gather together two photos of each family member and mount these on colored card stock; make sure each card is the same size. You might want to laminate the card stock for durability before cutting the cards apart. The photos do not have to be identical; it’s more of a challenge if the family members are wearing different clothes in each picture. For young preschoolers, start with four or five pairs; for older preschoolers, add in grandparents, cousins and as many relatives — and pets — as you wish.
You can cut up old illustrated books from thrift stores or garage sales to create all kinds of science-related matching games. For example, kids can match pictures of animals; older kids can match by categories: animals, bird, fish, for example. Preschoolers are also interested in nature and could match pictures of trees, leaves, flowers and weather symbols such as the sun, umbrellas or snowmen. Bry-Backmanor offers a printable dinosaur-matching game, and Kids Astronomy offers a simple Astronomy Shape Match.
Using a package of unlined index cards, markers and some small stickers, you can easily create a number matching game. Simply write numerals on cards and attach stickers to others. For example, you might write the number 5 on one card and attach 5 small dot stickers to another. For younger preschoolers, start with numerals 1 through 5. Add more numbers a few at a time. A variation requiring no numerals is to place, for example, five turtle stickers on one card and five frog stickers on another card.
Wonder Forge offers a variety of matching games suitable for preschoolers, including those based on Curious George, Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry characters. I Never Forget a Face Memory Game from eeBoo gives older preschoolers the challenge of playing a multicultural matching game. Mattel offers a Cars matching game for fans of the movie, and Thomas the Train fans can play the Thomas & Friends Station Stop Matching Game from Briar Patch.