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Colour matching games with Thornewood Treasures

Sorting and matching games are a simple but foundational first step in giving your little one a solid grounding in early maths skills.

Did you know that children who are exposed to the language and symbols of maths early in their lives, are significantly more competent in mathematical skills later in life?

But as ardent play advocates, we are definitely not going to suggest drilling your young child with flash cards! Science has shown us that play-based learning is much better to support mathematical competence. You can learn more about hands-on, experiential, play-based maths with Thornewood Treasures here.


  • Colour-matching is a first step to learning the essential mathematical concept of classifying objects according to their similarities and differences.
  • It encourages problem solving: a child engages in wonderful internal questioning when trying to solve matching and sorting problems. He weighs options, reasons with himself, try and fail and try again, or try and succeeds and feels a great satisfaction as his ability to solve a problem!
  • It develops concentration and memory
  • It paves the way for later maths concepts such as identifying similar shapes in geometry.


You can start playing simple matching games with toddlers from 18 months onwards. By around 24 months they begin to say colour words and really recognise that there are distinct colours in their world, but seldom really understand what the colour words mean yet – they cannot yet match the word to the actual colour by themselves.

From about 28 months a young child truly begins to understand colour words and by 36 months they can easily match items based on colour.

This graph was adapted from a 1999 study by Sandhofer and Smith to shows the average age that most children reach these colour milestones of saying colour names, understanding colour names and matching similar colours.


We love each and every one of the toys in our range, but when it comes to the best toys for colour matching, nothing beats our BRIGHT rainbow toys. Young children are naturally more attracted to bright colours, so the bright toys in our range are by far the most versatile in its possibilities for colour matching games!


Start by teaching the three primary colours first: red, blue and yellowExplore the secondary colours (orange, purple and green) next.

This is not academic work! It is playful, enjoyable, open-ended exploratory fun! (Which will pave the way for later academic success!)

Colour treasure hunt: Take the three primary colours peg dolls from your set of Thornewood Treasures Rainbow Peg Dolls. Tell your child that you are going on a colour treasure hunt around the house and garden and she needs to help her peggies find items that matches their clothes. It is fun to give her a little basket or satchel or even a small backpack in which to collect her colour treasures. Ham it up a bit by pretending to be going through a jungle or a desert or having to wade through a river. You can even give her a set of toilet paper roll binoculars to search for the colours! When you have enough treasures, sort them on the carpet according to colour and see which peg doll found the most treasures!

Match the correct peg doll, bird and Number House to the appropriate arch of your Thornewood Treasures Rainbow Stacker.

Welcome to Colours Street: Build a street of Number Houses. If you are only working on colour matching, use the side without numbers. If you have a large truck/bus toys, load your Rainbow Peg Dolls in and play out a story about dropping each passenger to his or her own house! An empty plastic container or shoe box can make a splendid bus, too!

Which is my pet? Each little Rainbow Peg Doll has his or her own special Rainbow Bird that only he or she can take care of and love. Place the Peg Dolls in one basket and the Rainbow Birds in another. Let your child pick out a peg doll. Say: “Oh, you picked the purple peg doll. She has a special way of calling her pet bird to her. She calls: ‘Purple! Purple! Come home to me!’  Can you find her purple Rainbow Bird and help him fly home to her?”

Rainbow land: Spread out the arches of your Thornewood Treasures BRIGHT RAINBOW STACKER. In Rainbow Land each peg doll lives under his or her own arch. Build a little world for each peg doll under each arch. Add the correct Number House, Counting Mushroom, Peg Doll and Rainbow Bird. For the smallest arches, build it next to the arch.

Wrong colour! Build your Rainbow Stacker in the shape of a trumpet or cornucopia. Mom or dad playfully places a matching peg doll on each arch, but deliberately make a few mistakes for the child to ‘catch them out.’

Colour Race: Print the game board Use colouring pencils to colour small squares of paper red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple. Tape it onto the sides of a die. Place the correct Thornewood Treasures Rainbow Peg dolls or Rainbow birds in the appropriate starting spaces. Take turns to roll the die to see which of the peg dolls win the race!

Warm and cool colours sorting activity Before sorting, discuss the colours of warm items (fire, sun, candlelight, chilies) and cool items (cool grass, rain, a swimming pool, a picture of ice ). Divide a blank piece of paper into two and ask your child to sort his Thornewood Treasures Rainbow Peg Dolls or Birds into two groups: warm colours on one side and cool colours on the other. Point out warm and cool colours in your daily walk or when reading picture books.

Duncan GJ, Dowsett CJ, Claessens A, et al. School readiness and later achievement.Developmental Psychology. 2007;43(6):1428-1446.

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