Although young children can tell curved from straight lines and begin to recognise some 2D shapes, they find it difficult to draw them. Research shows that many children simply see an enclosed space, so a drawing of a triangle may well look more like a circle. Many children will find it easier to construct shapes using matchsticks rather than draw them.
It’s a good idea to provide each child with a piece of fabric to work on - otherwise, when the table is knocked or the child is jostled, the matchsticks move about very easily; an old table mat or a piece of felt is ideal. If you really need to keep a record, take a photograph, or work on paper and glue them in place. However, it is good to get the children used to using them and simply putting them back in the container when finished. If the children would like to use some elsewhere, that should be fine.
Handling the matchsticks and placing them appropriately is useful fine motor skills practice. There will also be plenty of opportunity to talk with the children about what they are doing, to count, use positional language, measure with matchsticks and so much more.
Some activity ideas - you will think of many more:
- match the edges of geometric shapes and count the sides, but make the distinction between counting the sides and counting the matchsticks
- match the edges of shadows or prints of shapes and count the sides
- test if a line is curved by placing a matchstick alongside
- create geometric shapes
- create and copy pictures and patterns - explore what is the same/different
- use for measuring and making comparisons
- explore what can be made with a particular number of matchsticks
- estimate how many matchsticks you will need to…
- counting activities…
Many model and toy shops sell bags of matchsticks (without the match heads) for just a couple of pounds. They’re even cheaper from educational suppliers. You can also buy coloured ones. Just add them to your general collection of manipulatives and you’ll soon find many uses for them.