Helping children learn shapes

Use fun and easy ways to help children learn shapes.

Helping children learn shapes is a job many parents are familiar with. PBS Parents notes that children can begin learning to identify shapes around age two; however, parents can and should introduce these concepts and vocabulary words earlier during play time. Children may not know what the words mean, but it’s a great way to start building on what children already know with new information. Learning about shapes helps introduce young children to math and gives a strong foundation for later learning in math.

Michigan State University Extension recommends these fun and easy ways to help children learn about shape.

  • Point out shapes in real life as you are out and about. When you are in the store, ask your child to find something shaped like a circle or a square. Or, point and say, “Look, our cereal box is shaped like a rectangle”. “That sign is round and is called a circle.” Once children are older, you can introduce other words like sphere.
  • Craft stick-shape building. Use craft sticks to help your child build different shapes such as a square, rectangle or triangle. You can also use chenille stems or pipe cleaners for this activity.
  • 3-D shape building. Use toothpicks and small pieces of playdough to build real life 3-D shapes. You can use the playdough to stick the ends of toothpicks in to hold the shapes together. Get creative with older kids and build things like cubes, trapezoids or prisms.
  • Chalk shapes. Draw a variety of shapes on the ground with sidewalk chalk. Call out a shape name and have your child erase the shape with water and a paint brush by tracing along the outline of the shape.
  • Masking tape shapes. Use masking tape to outline a shape on the floor, then have your child outline the shape with blocks or walk on the outline of the shape while singing the shape name.

Teaching children shapes doesn’t have to be boring! Making it fun will engage children in building a solid foundation for math skills. For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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