If you think that elaborate art activities are the only way to teach your toddler about shapes, think again. While hands-on artsy endeavors certainly have their place, using books about shapes is an easy way to sneak a little geometry practice into your little learner's day. As a bonus, reading books doesn't take nearly as much as artistic talent -- on your part -- and is virtually no mess.
What can a toddler learn about geometry? If you aren't sure that your little one can master this mathematics concept, take another look. While it's doubtful that your 2-year-old will have the ability to find a circle's radius or calculate angles, she can understand basic geometry concepts. By the end of the toddler years, a child can generally identify and draw basic shapes and sort them by size or type.
Themed Books on Shapes
If reading book after book on basic geometry sounds boring to you, just imagine how dull your toddler will find it. Try toddler shape books that also have an age-appropriate theme such as animals, houses and buildings, places such as the zoo or other familiar objects. Check out toddler-friendly selections such as "The Shape of Things" by Dayle Dodds, "Color Zoo" by Lois Ehlert, "Bear in a Sqaure" by Stella Blackstone, "Sea Shapes" by Suse McDonald or "Mouse Shapes" by Ellen Stoll Walsh.
Just because you are reading to your toddler, instead of making a hands-on craft, doesn't mean that you have to forgo the artistic aspect of shapes. As one of the elements of design, shapes play a primary role in all things artsy. If getting out the goopey glues and paints isn't to your liking, try a toddler art or design book that features shapes. Examples include "I Spy Shapes in Art" by Lucy Micklethwait, "When a Line Bends a Shape Begins" by Rhonda Gowler Greene, " Museum Shapes" by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or "Museum Shapes" by Gisela Voss from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Reading Shape Books
After finally deciding on one -- or two, three or more -- shape books, it's time to get down to the reading business. Keeping your toddler's not-so-terrific attention span in mind, avoid simply reading the books at your toddler. Instead, help her to engage in the literacy process by trying a more interactive technique. Point to the pictures of the shapes when you first identify new vocabulary words. For example, if the word is rectangle, point to a picture of a rectangle-shaped house in a book. Ask your toddler to repeat the word that you say. Read the book a second, or third, time and have her point to the shape pictures this time while saying the corresponding names.