Learning Shapes for Kids

Learning about shapes is an important part of early childhood education. Classifying shapes is a common component in many preschool learning standards, and kids entering kindergarten should be able to name a few shapes and be able to distinguish differences in shapes visually. Luckily, most kids pick up on learning shapes rather easily, and once the concept is introduced, they are able to learn quickly.

1. Shape Hunting

• Play a shape hunting game with 3-year-olds. Cut out several squares, triangles and circles from construction paper. Store all of the paper pieces in a large manila envelope and glue one of each shape to the front, so that whenever kids see the envelope they know it's time to pay the game.

For beginners, keep all of the circles one color, all of the squares another color and all the triangles yet another. They may falsely associate the shape and the color in the beginning. After they're familiar with the game, create new pieces with different colors.

If the children are very young, begin the game by placing paper shapes throughout the room, in obvious places, and having the children gather them up.

After they've mastered the skill of gathering the pieces, distribute them again, only this time hide them.

When they're accustomed to retrieving the pieces from hidden places, hide them one day when the children aren't looking, or are gone. Once they see the envelope and realize it's time to play the game, they'll begin looking for them.

In a 2-year-old preschool classroom, teaching the game can take a week. Don't pay too much attention to getting the children to memorize the shape names at this point, but every time one is found, praise the child and name the shape. "Cody found a square. Yea, Cody!"

3D Shapes

• Three- and 4-year-old children can begin learning about three-dimensional shapes with wooden blocks. Geometric shapes like cubes, cones, cylinders and pyramids are a standard part of many wooden and plastic building block sets.

Children who have already been playing with these blocks may be erroneously accustomed to calling them squares, tubes, triangles, etc. If that's the case, simply introduce the real names in a discussion. Have children repeat the new names and praise them for remembering them later. Each day, go over the names of the three-dimensional shapes in reference to the blocks.

After the kids are familiar with the 3D names, begin to point out other items with that shape, like cans, boxes and balls.

Play a 3D shape scavenger hunt by designating a table or floor mat for each shape and having children bring all of the cubes they can find to the "cube spot" and all of the pyramids they can find to the pyramid spot, etc.

Food Shapes

• For snack, serve a plate full of shapes and see if your child notices. You can serve nothing but circles one day and squares another, or mix them up.

For circular foods, serve sliced bananas, ham or turkey in Lunchables, sliced carrots, Carr's whole wheat crackers or Ritz crackers, sliced cucumber, cheerios, bagels, fresh peas or rice cakes, or cut a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a round cookie cutter.

For square foods, serve sliced cheese, square crackers, squared watermelon slices, mango cubes, waffles or sliced bread.

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