Understanding the concepts of “big” and “small” is a fundamental step in a child’s cognitive development. For teachers and parents looking for quick and easy ways to impart these ideas, here’s a list of engaging “big and small activities” that will not only educate but also entertain young learners.

The Pink Tower & The Montessori Approach to “Big and Small”

Description of the Pink Tower: The Pink Tower is a set of ten wooden cubes, painted pink. Each cube differs in size by 1cm, ranging from 1cm^3 to 10cm^3. When stacked properly, they form a tower from the largest cube at the base to the smallest on top.

Using the Pink Tower to Introduce Size Concepts:

  1. Introduction: Begin by placing the Pink Tower cubes randomly on a mat. Introduce the child to the activity with simple language, “Today, we’re going to work with the Pink Tower.”
  2. Isolation of Quality: The Pink Tower isolates the concept of size. Though the color remains constant (pink), the size changes. This isolation draws the child’s attention to the variation in size, allowing them to focus solely on this attribute.
  3. Building the Tower: Ask the child to build the tower, starting with the largest cube and finding the next biggest to place on top, and so on. This hands-on activity emphasizes the concept of “bigger” and “smaller.” The video above has a good demonstration of how to introduce the vocabulary of big and small.
  4. Language Development: As the child interacts with the cubes, introduce terms like “big,” “bigger,” “small,” “smaller,” “biggest,” and “smallest.” Encourage them to describe the cubes they’re holding or placing
  5. Self-Correction: One of the beautiful aspects of Montessori materials is their built-in control of error. If a child places a larger cube on top of a smaller one, it won’t fit properly, and they’ll see their mistake. This self-correction promotes independence and problem-solving.

The Pink Tower not only helps children understand the concepts of “big” and “small” but also prepares them for mathematical concepts, enhances their observational skills, and refines their motor planning. By presenting this activity in the Montessori way, children undergo a holistic learning experience, absorbing concepts deeply and intuitively.

Activities to Explore Big and Small with Preschoolers

1. Big And Small Activities with Everyday Objects

Begin with everyday items around the house. Gather a collection of objects of varying sizes: a pencil, a crayon, a toy car, and maybe a stuffed animal. Ask the child to arrange them from the smallest to the biggest or vice versa. This simple activity reinforces the concepts of big and small in a tactile and visual manner.


2. Size Sorting with Food

During snack time, give your child a mix of big and small foods, like grapes and watermelons or pretzel sticks and pretzel twists. Ask them to sort the foods based on size. This can be both a learning activity and a tasty treat!

3. Building with Blocks

Provide building blocks of various sizes. Challenge your child to build towers using only big blocks and then only small blocks. Compare the height and stability of the two towers.

4. Printable Size Sorting Cards

Prepare cards with images of animals, buildings, or objects of different sizes. The child can then sort these cards based on their sizes. Printable cards with varying degrees of complexity can be found online, catering to different age groups.

5. “Big Steps, Small Steps” Game

Turn learning into a physical activity. Ask the child to take “big” steps and then “small” steps. This not only teaches the size concept but also improves motor skills.

6. Interactive Storytelling

Choose a story that revolves around the theme of sizes. As you read, emphasize the differences in size by using your hands or props. For instance, while narrating “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” you can use three different-sized bowls to represent Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear’s porridge bowls.

7. Nature Walks

The outdoors offers endless opportunities for learning. On a nature walk, encourage the child to collect leaves, stones, or twigs. Once home, they can categorize them based on size.

8. Big And Small Activities with Playdough Creations

Hand your child some playdough and ask them to make two objects: one big and one small. This fosters creativity while emphasizing the size difference.

9. Drawing on Paper

Provide the child with paper and colored pencils. Ask them to draw something big, like an elephant, and something small, like a mouse. This activity also helps improve their drawing skills while emphasizing size concepts.

10. Shadow Play

On a sunny day, go outside and observe the shadows of different objects. Discuss why some shadows are bigger or smaller than others. This not only teaches about size but also introduces basic science concepts.

11. Big and Small Dress Up

Using old clothes or costumes, have a dress-up day where children can wear oversized shirts or tiny hats. This fun activity allows them to feel the difference between big and small.

12. Balloon Inflation

Give your child a balloon and ask them to inflate it a little to make it small. Then, inflate it further to make it big. This activity provides a tangible example of how one object can change in size.

13. Big and Small Activities with Water Play

Using a water table or a large basin, provide containers of different sizes. Encourage your child to pour water from big containers to small ones and vice versa. Discuss the differences in capacity and size.

14. Nesting Cookie Cutters Play

Present your child with a set of nesting cookie cutters. Encourage them to arrange the cookie cutters from the smallest to the biggest. They can also use playdough to create shapes with the cutters, further emphasizing the size differences.

15. Matryoshka Nesting Dolls Exploration

Nesting dolls are a perfect representation of the “big and small” concept. Ask your child to open each doll and arrange them in order of size. Discuss the size of each doll as they explore.

The journey of understanding “big” and “small” goes beyond mere size comparison; it marks a crucial milestone in a child’s cognitive and perceptual development. Recognizing differences in dimensions not only sharpens observational skills but also lays the foundation for logical reasoning, spatial awareness, and mathematical understanding. As children engage with “big and small activities”, they’re not just playing — they’re constructing knowledge, forming connections, and developing a nuanced understanding of the world around them.

You can learn more about sorting skills and activitiessorting skills and activities here.