Teaching Basic Concepts – Little and BIG

One of the concepts Noah is learning at speech therapy and at home is little and BIG.  We’ve been reading books that talk about little and BIG, we’ve learned and practiced the sign language, and we use little and BIG in our vocabularies every chance we get.  I picked up this little game from his speech therapist and have enlisted the help of his siblings to make it more fun.  BIG is an easier concept than little, so that’s what we’ll start with here.  Expect to stick with Stage 1 for several sessions before attempting little and BIG together.


Some of the items we’ve used for our sets are baby spoon/serving spoon, tennis ball/beach ball, mini block/standard block, mini book/oversized atlas, small and large stuffed animals, baby doll cup/large cup, and Matchbox car/remote control car.  The possibilities are endless, and it’s been fun scouring thrift stores and dollar stores looking for little/BIG items to add to our collection.  The greater the difference in size, the clearer this concept will be for your child.

Directions Stage 1 (Repeat these steps for at least three sessions):

  1. Attach the “BIG” PEC to the BIG box.
  2. Sit with your child within arm’s length of the boxes.  Point to the BIG box.  Say and sign, “BIG.  BIG box.”
  3. Gather your sets of items, keeping like item next to like item.  Bring your child’s attention to the first set.  Hold up the BIG item.  Say and sign “BIG” and the name of the item (ie spoon).  “Put BIG in BIG.”  Repeat until your child has placed all of the BIG items in the BIG box.
This method may seem rhetorical, but there is great value in introducing a new skill to your child in a no-fail environment.  Your child will taste success from the get-go and will be more willing to expand his ability once he has a confident foundation.

Directions Stage 2:

  1. Attach the “BIG” and “little” PECs to the appropriate boxes.
  2. Sit with your child within arm’s length of the boxes.  (Each session you have with your child doing this activity, start with the boxes a little further away.  This is a gradual way to exercise working memory and advance motor planning.)  Point to the little box.  Say and sign, “Little. Little box.)  Point to the BIG box.  Say and sign, “BIG. BIG box.)  Show your child one set of BIG and little items (ie two spoons).
  3. Hold up the BIG item.  Say and sign “BIG” and the name of the item.  Set it down.
  4. Hold up the little item.  Say and sign “little” and the name of the item. Now hold one of the items in each hand.
  5. Ask, “Where is “BIG”?  Your child should take the BIG item.  If he starts reaching for the wrong item, bring the correct item towards your child until he takes it.  You should have to do this less and less as you progress.  Now say, “Put BIG in BIG.”  Do not rename the item; the less words you use when you want your child to select, the easier it will be for him to focus on the task at hand, identifying little and BIG.
  6. Repeat step 5 with “little.”
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 with the other object sets.
Your child may make mistakes when learning this game.  No worries.  Size is an important but abstract concept and it may take many repetitions of you modeling the concept before he is able to grasp it.  If your child drops an object into the wrong box, refrain from telling him no.  Just take the object out, give it back to your child and guide him with your words, signs and actions as he places it in the right box.


Two Players:  This makes a fun relay for two children.  Designate one player as BIG and one as little.  Have players find their designated size from a set of objects and deposit it in the right box.  Repeat with next set of objects.  (Distance box 3+ yards from the objects.)
A Step Up:  Present one set of two differently-sized objects (ie baby spoon and serving spoon).  Prompt your child to communicate via speech and/or signs or PECs, “I want BIG (spoon).  Give them the item and prompt them to deliver it to the correct box.  This works well as a two-player game when you assign one size to each player.
For extra visual support, print off an extra copy of the BIG/little PECs. Laminate.  Punch a hole in the bottom left and right corner of each card.  Lace yarn through holes and tie to make a necklace for your child.  It will look like it is upside down, but it will not be to your child when he flips it up to see it.  Point out to your child that his card is the same as the card on the matching box, ie “Little, little.  It’s the same.”Be on the lookout for opportunities to practice BIG and little.  You’ll find them abounding at snack time (little crumb or BIG cookie), play time (little car or BIG car), and bath time (little water or BIG water).  Hopefully, with a little bit of effort your child will have a BIG payoff in learning this early concept.

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