When you’re teaching your child about shapes, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s important to let your little one learn shapes in three phases. First, let him experience the shape with his whole body. For example, walk around the outline of a circle. Then let him touch the shape by holding and playing with blocks or toys in that shape. Lastly, let him identify the shape and draw it on paper.
- Your child must first be able to point to the shape (without naming it) every time you ask him to do so.
- Only once he has mastered one shape, should you move on to the next. Teach your child about shapes in this order: circle, triangle, square, rectangle, cross, diamond, half circle, oval and star.
Know what to expect at each age so you can help your little one reach the necessary milestones
- 0-1 YEAR
It’s amazing how much your clever little one is capable of at such a young age. At about nine months, he is already starting to store the shape concept apart from the colour concept in his memory.
- 1-2 YEARS
Your baby starts placing a circle and a square in the correct place when doing a shape puzzle. You can still expect some errors, but he will eventually get the hang of it. He also starts to understand how shapes can be grouped. For example, he will realise that an orange and a ball are both round and can roll.
- 2-3 YEARS
Your child can now match the four basic shapes in a shape puzzle and can also identify and name a circle and a square.
- 3-4 YEARS
Your little one can name a circle, square and triangle and is eager to tell you what shapes certain objects are. For example, he may point out that a ball is a circle on his own. It is now much easier for your child to complete a shape puzzle and he will also start to imitate simple shapes while watching you draw, so get creative!
- 4-5 YEARS
It’s time to get sorting; your child can now group about six shapes together (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval and star). He can also easily tell the difference between a square and a rectangle.
- 5-6 YEARS
Your little artist can draw basic shapes and copy a diamond. He can also name and group nine shapes – a circle, square, triangle, oval, half circle, diamond, rectangle, cross and star.
Try these activities to help your child develop the shape concept:
Your baby won’t be able to identify or name any shapes during the first year, but the purpose of these activities is to expose him to various shapes so he becomes aware of them.
- Make sure your baby has a variety of toys of different shapes to play with. When playing with these, you could say: “The ball is a round circle and this block is a square.” Make your baby aware of different shapes as often as possible.
- Place specific toys like balls, wooden blocks and foam blocks of different shapes in a container. Unpack these with your baby while giving the name of each shape as you do.
- Hang mobiles or pictures with different shapes in your baby’s room, play area, above his changing station or on his car seat. Name the different shapes for him when you see him looking at, or playing with, them.
- Let your baby sit on your lap while you page through a book with different shapes. Be sure to name the shapes he is seeing.
Give your little one a basic shape board with a circle and square in it. You can make one yourself by cutting a circle and square out of a plastic container (beware not to leave any sharp edges exposed) and loose circles and squares from cardboard.
Give your baby time to explore the shapes before showing him how to put the shapes in the board (or container). It is important that you give him time to attempt this on his own. Get very excited when he succeeds – even if it is only by accident.
- Roll a ball on the floor and point out that the ball is round and that is why it can roll. Then explain that a block or square toy has corners and that’s why it can’t roll.
- Make sure that your child has a variety of toys of different shapes to play with. Guide him while playing by saying: “The ball is a round circle. This block is a square.”
- Place balls, wooden blocks of different shapes and foam blocks in a container. Help your toddler to unpack these and say the name of each shape as you do so.
- Draw a big enough shape (such as a circle) for your toddler to be able to walk on the drawing. You can do this with a stick in the ground, chalk on a driveway, bright markers on a big piece of paper or even a piece of string or a hose. Encourage your little one to walk, run, crawl and jump along the shape. Talk to him about the shape while he’s doing this.
- Let your child play ‘ring-a- ring-a-rosy’ with siblings or friends. Encourage him to hold hands and make a circle and then draw his attention to the shape he is creating.
- Let your little one sit on the floor and place various blocks, beads and carton shapes in front of him. Give your child a circle shape and ask him to sort all the circles and place them to the side. If he takes out the wrong shape, ask him to look at the example you gave him and make sure his selection is also a circle. Guide him when needed. If he seems to struggle with this activity, you can make it easier by only letting him sort two shapes (circles and squares). Similarly, the activity can be made more difficult by adding more shapes.
- Finger paint is a fantastic tool to teach the shape concept. Teach your little one how to paint a circle by painting one for him and then guiding his hand along it. Towards the end of the year, your little artist will be able to copy a circle from an example.
- Let your child draw different shapes and lines in the sand. Sit with him and show him how to draw a circle, as well as vertical and horizontal lines. Towards the end of the year, you can also teach him to draw a plus sign, a cross, a square and a ladder, but be sure to guide him and perhaps show him examples to copy.
- Play ‘Simon says’ with your little one, but give instructions that include a circle, square and triangle. For example: “Simon says touch something that is round like a circle. Simon says bring mommy a triangle block. Simon says stand on something that is a square shape.”
- By the end of the year you can blindfold your little one and give him a circular, square or triangular block. He can then guess the shape of the block in his hands. Give lots of clues if your child struggles with this game. It is absolutely normal for him to call a circle a ball and a square a block.
- Sit with your little one while he turns the pages of a book. Let him show you a specific shape on the page. For example, ask him to show you all the objects of a circle shape on the page. Repeat the activity for a square, triangle, rectangle and star.
- Use sticks, matches, wool or cord to make different shapes and let your child copy you. If you want to make this activity more difficult, ask your child to create a shape without giving him an example to copy.
- Cut out cardboard shapes of different colours and sizes for your little artist to play with. Encourage him to build something like a tree or a house. Be sure to guide your child if he struggles with this activity. You can also show him an example and let him copy you.
- Play ‘I spy’ and give your little one hints of what object you are referring to by naming its shape. For example: “I spy with my little eye something that is a circle.”
- Put a selection of shapes in a bag. Let your child put both hands in the bag and touch and explore one item before telling you what shape it is. Let him take the shape out of the bag to see whether he was right. Repeat this activity a few times.
- Trace a shape on your child’s back with your finger and let him guess which shape it is. Encourage him to do the same with you.
- Collect pages with a variety of shapes from old magazines. Give these to your child and let him tear out specific shapes and stick it on another page in order to create a collage. For instance, make a collage of circles on one page and triangles on another.
- Let your little artist draw circles, squares, triangles, half circles, rectangles, crosses and stars on pieces of paper and let him cut these out. Now he can use it to create different pictures by sticking it on a separate piece of paper. Guide him when necessary.