What do you need?

Observational drawing match game

Summary: get outside to collect objects for a match game, and develop your child’s skills in observing and recording

Set-up: 5 mins

Play: 20-40 mins, plus a long or short walk to collect items!

Complexity: Medium


  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • A place to collect natural items

What to do

On your next walk in a natural or semi-natural setting, collect a set of similar objects, such as a set of leaves, a set of shells or a set of pinecones. At home, lay out the objects in a group to play a match game. Explain that the aim of the game is to choose one of the objects and use your observational skills to create an observational drawing (i.e. remind children that they should try to record as much true detail about the object in words, pictures and numbers, rather than create a pretty artwork). Once they are finished, you will play a matching game and try to match their record to the right object.

Ask your child “what kinds of details do you think it will be useful to record?”, in order to get them comparing the objects and thinking carefully about the defining differences between them. For example, it might be important to get the “actual size”, or to make notes about colour, or to record unique markings such as holes or broken edges. Explain that one trick is to draw around their object (or if it is a flat object, like a leaf, to make a rubbing of it). As children draw and write, encourage them to keep thinking and adding details, rather than finish too quickly, as this will help with the matching game.

When the drawings are complete, place the drawings next to the initial, larger selection of objects and see if you can match each drawing to its object. You can then repeat the game with another object.


Think about how you could group your items according to shared characteristics.

Investigate whether you can find two leaves/ shells / pine cones that are exactly the same – does your child think that is possible? Why / why not?

What learning does this activity promote?

Observation, comparison, recording, literacy, fine motor skill

By Dr Vicki Hargraves


Dr Vicki Hargraves

Vicki runs our ECE webinar series and also is responsible for the creation of many of our ECE research reviews. Vicki is a teacher, mother, writer, and researcher living in Marlborough. She recently completed her PhD using philosophy to explore creative approaches to understanding early childhood education. She is inspired by the wealth of educational research that is available and is passionate about making this available and useful for teachers.

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