Understanding shapes and developing spatial sense will help your child learn geometry when he gets older.  The experiences he has during these early years form important pathways in his brain.  The more times these pathways are used the more efficient they become.  Young children generally learn about shapes and space in a specific order.

They learn by:

Stage One:

(two to three years old)

  • Exploring and using solid (3-dimensional) shapes in play.

  • They will actively explore objects and games like large-piece puzzles.

  • Matching solid objects to pictorial (2-dimensional) shapes

  • Begin to use direction and relational words like on and off, here and there, and up and down.

  • Recognize a circle.

Stage Two:

(three to four years old)

  • Recognizes geometric shapes in the environment.

  • Identifying and naming pictorial shapes such as a circle, square, triangle and rectangle.

Books about Shapes

  • Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban (JHOB) Available at both Thomas and Hageman.

  • Circles, Triangles and Squares by Tana Hoban (J 516.2 HOB) Available at Hageman.

  • So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban (J 516.15 HOB) Available at both Thomas and Hageman.

  • When a Line Bends, A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene (JGRE) Available at both Thomas and Hageman.

  • The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds (JDOD) Available at both Thomas and Hageman.

Games to Play

Geometric Shape Hunting

Draw a picture of a shape on the outside of a lunch bag. Hide objects around the room that are shaped like the drawing and ask your child to fill his/her bag with them. As an example, if you draw a square on the bag; items to hide may include a block, square picture frame, refrigerator magnet shaped like a square or a baggie with saltine crackers.


Neighborhood Walk

  1. Take your child on a “neighborhood walk”, asking them to look for geometric shapes on buildings or houses.

  2. Photograph the shapes they find such as a rectangle door, the triangular gable-end of a roof, a square window or an octagon window.

  3. Print and display on refrigerator or poster board.

  4. You could also make a “neighborhood walk tab book” by placing all the rectangle photos under the rectangle tab, all the circle pictures under the circle tab, etc.


How to Eat Geometry

  • Serve your child geometric shaped foods i.e., square = cracker, circle = cookie, Ritz cracker, rectangle = slice of block cheese.

  • Challenge your child to name and talk about the characteristic of the shapes they are eating.

  • Graham Cracker Snack – Use graham crackers at snack time to teach rectangles. Break the graham crackers in half to create squares. Let your child spread their graham crackers with peanut butter, cream cheese, or her favorite tasty treat.


Building with Blocks

Using words like over, under, around, and behind, have your child explain to you how to build a structure, describing where each block should go. It might be helpful for you to go first and when you are finished giving directions, switch roles.


Cereal Shape Sorting

Have your child sort shapes using brand cereals such as:

  • Squares: Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or Captain Crunch

  • Circles: Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or Apple Jacks

  • Rectangles: Frosted Mini Wheat

Then use the cereal as a special snack time treat!


Shape Twister

Put shapes on construction paper and attach them to the floor so that they can not move. Pull shapes out of a bucket and have your children put their foot, their hand, etc on it.


Shape Collage

You will need safety scissors, a glue stick, construction paper, a marker, and a few old magazines. Before you begin, divide a piece of construction paper into six boxes. Label each box: square, rectangle, circle, oval, triangle, and star. Help your child search for shapes in a magazine that represent any of the six shapes on the construction paper. Cut the pictures out and have your child glue the shapes in their appropriate box. You can substitute the construction paper for poster board, if you want to make a bigger workspace.


Musical Shapes

Tape Different shapes onto the floor. Have your child step from shape to shape as you play music. When the music stops have him stop and yell out what shape he is standing on.


Shape Rubbings

Provide your child shapes made out of sandpaper, corrugated cardboard, oak tag, and foam for her to use as stencils or for rubbings.


Shape Train

Have your child cut two circles, one triangle, one large square, and one rectangle from paper. They can then add the circles to the bottom of the square and the rectangle standing up on top of the square and the triangle pointy end to the square. Then let your child paint her train. This makes a cute train and lets your child see how different shapes can go together to form a unique shape.


Shape Boxes

I found this on someone’s blog and I love it….

Shape Boxes

(Boxes Can Be Modified for Colors)

I made these boxes after trying to think of a way to introduce my baby to shapes. Lakeshore has a product similar to this for $5o

but I just made mine with stuff I had laying around the house. I like this idea because she can put her hands on it and also it relates shapes to the real world. Outside of school, there are not many times when she is going to have to point out a 2 dimensional shape on a piece of paper. I hope it will show her that shapes are a part of everyday life. Since she is only 12 months old, I am not trying to drill anything into her. I just let her open the boxes and play with the contents as she pleases. Like in this picture, she took the sponge and pretended she was scrubbing the box :). While she plays I talk to her about the shape. For example, I will say, “that yellow sponge is a rectangle, you can tell because it has four sides. Two sides are long, two sides are short”. In the rectangle box I put a stamp, a sponge, an old id card (which she loves because it has a picture of Daddy on it), a plastic brownie, and two cardboard boxes that came in a play food set she got for her birthday.

In the circle box I put a plastic plate, a small compact mirror, a cd, a butter tub lid, a plastic quarter, and a few plastic food items: an orange, a pie, a pancake and two doughnuts. In the square box I put a washcloth, a plastic building block, a plastic waffle, a small board book and a square pot holder. In the triangle box (the most pathetic box) I put two slices of plastic pizza. I really can’t think of much more to put in there for a triangle. I was thinking a hanger maybe, but it won’t fit in there. I plan to add more items in the future, as I come across them.

You could use this same concept for colors.