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Comparing Sizes With Handprints

Help your toddler learn about the idea of bigger and smaller with this activity.

July 31, 2020
  • Early Learning and Care
  • Family Engagement
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Recommended for Toddlers

Materials Needed:

  • Paper (can be newspaper, magazines, paper bags, notebook paper, etc.)
  • A pencil or other writing tool
  • Tape (optional)

Developmental Goals:

  • Understand the idea of larger and smaller.
  • Increase use of mathematical vocabulary such as larger than or smaller than.
  • Support understanding of ordering objects by size (smallest to largest or largest to smallest).

In the Future:

  • The ability to order objects by size will build the foundation for the understanding that numbers represent different amounts.
  • Your toddler’s ability to compare two or more objects by size will build prior knowledge that will allow her to compare two or more objects by other factors (color, texture, speed, weight, etc) that will be useful in further math and science understanding.
  • Understanding the concepts of bigger and smaller is a foundation skill for eventually understanding fractions and parts of a whole.


  1. With your toddler, trace her hand (or foot).  Also trace your hand and the hands (or feet) of any other family members, neighbors, or caregivers.
  2. Either tape the hands (feet) on the wall or lay them on the floor.  Do so randomly at first.
  3. Ask your child to find the paper handprint that is the same size as her hand. Challenge her by asking, “I wonder if you can find a print that is larger/smaller than yours?” You can also ask her to choose a print that she thinks may be the same size/larger/smaller than yours or other members of the household.
  4. When your toddler is finished exploring the sizes of the prints, challenge her to line the prints up from smallest to largest or from biggest to smallest.  As she does so, guide her by asking “I wonder how we can decide which print to start with?” or “I wonder which print should come next?” As your child works, don’t correct any “mistakes.” Rather, when she is finished, look at the order with her and ask her if the prints look as though they are lined up from smallest to biggest. Encourage your child to compare each print to observe the different sizes.

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