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Shape Activities for Preschoolers

Shapes are one of the first math concepts children learn. First, they learn to recognize the name of each shape and the way they look. Parents often start by pointing out shapes in everyday conversations with comments like, ‘Your cracker is in the shape of a circle.” Next, they learn to identify them. When asked what is this shape? They can name it.

a child with a shape puzzle

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Shape Activities for Preschoolers

Children can find shapes everywhere and there are so many ways to explore them:

  • collect and sort shapes
  • discover the shape of foods they are eating
  • make shapes out of things like sticks, blocks, popsicle sticks, crayons or their hands
    • see if they can change one shape into another, for instance, turn a rectangle into a triangle
  • go on a shape hunt (one shape at a time)
  • use cookie cutters to cut shapes into foods like sandwiches or when playing with playdough or in the sand
  • trace or color shapes
  • make shapes with painter tape on the floor and let your child put matching shapes inside the taped area.
  • using a chalkboard have your child tell you how to draw a particular shape. Start at the top and ask them what you do next.
  • make patterns – square, circle, square, circle….
  • put a few different shaped Magna Tiles in a paper bag or other similar container. Let your child reach in without looking and feel a shape he can identify. Have him pull it out to see if they’re right
  • trace shapes with crayons, markers or paint brushes
  • draw pictures of shapes in the sand
A toddler on the floor with a shape game.

Basic Shapes for Preschoolers

What shapes do you teach preschoolers and in what order?

Level 1 – When teaching shapes to preschoolers it’s best to start with basic common 2D shapes children encounter most often. Make sure it is not just simple rote memory. They should be able to recognize and identify these shapes in a variety of ways – in different sizes and colors and with other features ( not just an isolated picture) For ex. a tire on a truck is a circle or a refrigerator door as being a rectangle. Start with these:

  • circle
  • star
  • heart
  • square
  • triangle
a poster with the shapes circle, star, heart, square, and triangle

Level 2 – Next move on to:

  • rectangle
  • diamond
  • oval
  • octagon
    • Why octagons? Because octagons are the shape of stop signs which children see often. And because it’s an impressive word for little tikes, so they love saying it! – lol
preschool shapes level 2 rectangle, diamond, octagon, oval

Level 3 AdvancedThis level is not necessary for preschoolers to know at this age. But for older preschoolers or early elementary children who have mastered the basics and want to learn more, the next level would be these more advanced 2- D shapes and simple 3-D shapes:

2-D Shapes

  • hexagon
  • pentagon
  • rhombus
  • trapezoid

3-D Shapes

  • cylinder
  • cube
  • cone
  • sphere

Shape Crafts for preschoolers

Bottle Cap Circles Paint circles using the bottle cap on an empty water bottle.

circles painted with a bottle cap

Paint with Shaped Cookie Cutters Use a shaped cookie cutter, like stars and hearts, dipped in paint. You could use different sizes for a fun effect.

A painting using a star cookie cutter.

Circle from a Cup Kids will have fun with this project as they create cool designs with circles.

A painting made from a cup dipped in paint.

Resources for Teaching Shapes

You don’t need to buy a lot of resources to teach shapes. Shapes are everywhere, so there are plenty of learning opportunities just with things you already have on hand like blocks and toys.

You can also take advantage of teachable moments when you’re out and about. Find shapes on buildings, at the park, and in stores. Street signs are a great teaching tool. They come in almost all basic shapes – circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, and diamonds.

Magna – Tiles are a must-have! There are so many ways to play with them besides learning shapes. Take a peek at the pins I’ve saved over the years to my Magna – Tile Ideas board on Pinterest – you are sure to find inspiration!

Shape Books for Preschoolers

Books are a great way to introduce new concepts or reinforce learning concepts already taught. You can use just about any book to point out shapes. If you are looking for books specifically about shapes check out this Ulitmate List of Books about Shapes for Preschoolers.

Be sure to check out more fun Early Learning Activities

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