Many babies have played with a simple shape sorter toy, showing that even very young children can recognize differences in the shapes of objects. By the time those babies become preschoolers, they are ready to learn the names of those shapes and apply them to the world around them -- the clock is a circle and the door is a rectangle. Learning to recognize and differentiate between shapes will help your child as she continues on in school with both math and writing letters. Pull out some simple household items and put together some fun games to help your preschooler learn about shapes.
Play With Your Food
Your kitchen is a great place to start teaching your child about shapes. As you are putting away groceries, have him sort the packages by their shape. Show him that the bottom of a can is a circle and boxes are made up of rectangles. Label two grocery sacks -- one with a circle and one with a rectangle -- and have your preschooler guess which bag will be full first. Hand him the food packages and ask him to place them in the bag that matches their shape. When you finish, practice counting the circles and rectangles in each bag. You can continue the learning into mealtime by having him identify the shapes of the food on his plate. For example, his sandwich is cut into triangles and his banana is sliced into circles.
Take a walk around your house or your neighborhood and be on the lookout for shapes. Point out the octagon-shaped stop sign and the squares on the sidewalk. When you are done, ask your child to draw a picture of what she saw on your walk and to include some of the shapes you noticed together. Preschoolers learn to use shape words and match attributes of shapes through their drawings. So comment on your child's picture with things like, "I like how you drew the sun nice and round like a circle," or, "This window is a rectangle shape because it has two long sides and two short sides."
Learning shapes doesn't just have to involve seeing them -- preschoolers should get to touch and feel them, too. Sometimes the best learning happens when children get their hands messy, so find some shaving cream, finger paints or even food items like pudding, sugar or salt. Pour some of whichever material you choose into a shallow pan and let your child practice drawing shapes with his finger. He can feel less pressure to draw them "correctly" because it is easy to wipe it away and try again.
Most parents can agree that preschoolers have a lot of energy, so why not let them burn some of it off while learning at the same time? Use masking tape to create large shapes on your floor, or if you are playing outside, draw shapes with sidewalk chalk. Give your child small objects to toss, such as bean bags, and call out a shape. She must toss her bean bag to the correct shape on the ground. Get her moving even more by having her run to the correct shape or jump into the shape as you name it. When she tires of running and jumping, have her walk along the edge of each shape like a balance beam, focusing on the name of each shape.